World Youth Skills Day 2020
Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond
Remarks by H.E. Mrs. Kshenuka Senewiratne,
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
15 July 2020
Her Excellency, the First Lady of Colombia,
Hon. Ministers from Sri Lanka and Portugal,
His Excellency, President of the 74th General Assembly,
His Excellency, Permanent Representative of Portugal,
Her Excellency, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Directors-General of UNESCO & ILO
UNSG’s Envoy on Youth
I wish to extend a very warm welcome to all of you to the ‘World Youth Skills Day 2020’ event, being held this time virtually, due to the current global pandemic, on the theme ‘Skills for a Resilient Youth in the Era of COVID 19 and Beyond’.
It is an extreme honour to have the First Lady of Colombia with us today, as well as video messages from the Hon. Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations of Sri Lanka, the Minister of Education of Portugal, the President of the General Assembly and the Deputy-Secretary-General of the UN. My sincere appreciation goes out to the co-hosts of this event, namely the Permanent Mission of Portugal, UNESCO, ILO, and the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, for their tremendous support. I also wish to thank the technical experts who are with us today, from across the world, demonstrating their dedication to the promotion of skills development among youth, and look forward to the rich discussion that would ensue. To the youth delegates who are present I say, this is your event and your opportunity to speak out - let us know what you need.
Six years ago, Sri Lanka together with Portugal and G77 and China, spearheaded the General Assembly resolution establishing July 15th as the “World Youth Skills Day”, thereby acknowledging the imperative need for bridging the youth skills gap, in order to tackle the issue of youth unemployment and underemployment. Today, it has become a pivotal occasion for youth, and it is heartening to note the growing significance of this universally recognized UN day, in drawing the attention of the world to the importance of youth skills development. This is demonstrated by having over 1700 participants registered for this programme.
The effects of COVID-19 are of an unprecedented nature, creating not only a global health crisis but also affecting society and changing livelihoods, giving rise to many socio-economic difficulties, and exacerbating already existing challenges related to poverty, discrimination and conflict, present in most parts of the world. With young people being among the most affected, we must ensure that this does not hamper their potential, and take measures to increase their resilience to adapt and face these global challenges.
Despite these trying times, every effort must be made to continue to engage and involve youth in grasping the opportunities provided, with the changing world of work including digitization and the devastation posed by the pandemic. Let us not despair but capitalize on this situation, and find the silver lining. In deed there are a number of youth who have taken their own initiatives to support national crisis responses to the pandemic, which must be acknowledged and encouraged. Digitalization, has become even more important with the current health challenge, and can have a positive impact on the innovating strength of developing countries. Young people must become proactively involved in the effective harnessing of technology, to improve the quality and sustainability of life on our planet, particularly in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Undoubtedly therefore, technical and vocational education training plays an integral role in economic growth, by facilitating skills development linked to labour market needs for the workforce.
Youth are the backbone of any nation, and play an important role in the development of society, and as such, they must be given every opportunity to contribute positively. As the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said and I quote ‘we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future’. So let’s pay heed to this and pledge to concertedly work together under the UN banner on skills development, to make our youth more competent in serving both the present and future.
The issue of youth skills development is one that is of critical importance to Sri Lanka, and is prioritized in the country’s national policy framework, with a dedicated Ministry for “Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations”. In this context, we are thankful that Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment & Labour Relations has honoured this occasion with a special video message, which will now be aired.