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Ninth Commonwealth Youth Forum 2013 :

The youth identity; the Sri Lankan way

Sri Lanka is privileged to host the ninth Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) from November 10 to 14 at the Hambantota International Conference Hall.

The Commonwealth Youth Forum will be held as one of the mega events parallel to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to be held in Colombo from November 15 to 17, 2013. Over 1,000 local and foreign representatives from 54 Commonwealth countries are expected to participate in the inaugural ceremony of the ninth Commonwealth Youth Forum.

The Commonwealth Youth Forum which is scheduled to be held in November will undoubtedly be the largest youth conference ever organised by the Government. Officials of the Commonwealth Youth Program (CYP), the foreign youth representatives, experts on the subject of Youth and Development, and members of the Ministries of Youth Affairs of all Commonwealth nations are expected to participate in the event.

The Ministry of Youth Affairs along with the National Youth Service Council had already established the Commonwealth Youth Forum Secretariat to organise the event on a grand scale.

The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) will take place during the period of the scheduled CHOGM and the event will be of advantage to our younger generation and officers of the Youth Development arena. Officially, two youth representatives from each of the Commonwealth Countries will participate in the event.

The Government will select Sri Lankan youth representatives from all the regions of the country for various events who will play an important role along with their international colleagues to make the event a success.

The participants will have the advantage of exchanging their views with one another and understanding the similarities as well as differences of cultural values of the people of all the Commonwealth nations. The conference will enable participants, both foreign and local, to exchange their views among themselves and improve their knowledge about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges pertaining to youth development in their particular countries.

Sri Lanka has hosted several medium range youth related international seminars and conferences in the past. In 1998 the Asian Youth Council meeting was held in Kandy with participants from over 20 countries.

In 2008 Sri Lanka also hosted the Commonwealth Youth Ministers meeting successfully. In 2014, Sri Lanka anticipates hosting United Nations World Youth Congress along with representatives from all UN member countries.

Impetus

Hosting such conferences and or seminars in the country will not only enhance the image of the country but will also convince other nations of the capacity and the capability of the country to handle such events successfully. This will also be an impetus towards the promotion of the tourist industry in the country. We are indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to host the forthcoming ninth Youth Forum (CYF) in this country, when we will be able to show the Commonwealth Nations what our nation has achieved in the field of youth development and other ongoing important development projects in the country. The history of youth development activities in Sri Lanka can be traced back to 1967, when the Youth Development Act was passed in Parliament.

Focus on youth

The classification of youth as between the ages of 15 and 29 years was based on the research done by Ariye Levie of Israel and as recorded in his two-volume publication published in 1966 on ‘Needs of Sri Lankan youth'. During the government of the late Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike, a Youth Farm Project was set-up at Agunukolapelessa to train the younger generation in agricultural activities on a mass scale. The first foreign youth exchange program was established in 1974 between Canada and Sri Lanka.

Milestone

The Ministry for Youth Affairs was first set up in 1979, the objective being the improvement and development of youth activities at a national level. The National Youth Centre, which was solely dedicated to improve and develop Sri Lankan youth established on June 11, 1987 was a gift by the Japanese Government to the youth of Sri Lanka. It is considered an important milestone in the identity of youth development.

Sri Lanka can be proud of being the only country in the South Asian region providing excellent infrastructure facilities for the improvement and development of youth. A few of those facilities are, the State sponsored Sri Lanka Youth Drama Festivals, Sri Lanka Youth Awards Festivals, Sri Lanka Youth Sports Festivals and Sri Lanka National Youth Corps. In addition youth are being trained in vocations at Vocational Training Institutions run by the State.The Youth Club Movement in Sri Lanka, which was set up in 1979, is considered to be the largest of such organisations in the world, with practically every village having its own Youth Club commencing its activities at grass roots level. It is estimated that around 15,000 Youth Clubs are in existence in the country comprising a membership of approximately over 600,000.

After the village level, the elected members of village Youth Clubs have the opportunity of joining the regional Youth Club Federations, district Youth Club Federations and the National Youth Club Federation, called the Sri Lanka Youth Club Federation.

A large number of such Youth Club members have been elected both to the Parliament and other Local Government bodies, such as Pradeshiya Sabhas, Urban Councils, Municipal Councils and Provincial Councils. Some hold important positions in State and private sector institutions, while some are popular artistes.

The Youth Parliament is a home-grown concept and is now popular in many countries. It is an institution where the inborn talents of the youth are sharpened and democracy taught by example.

Members of the Youth Parliament comprises 335 members, of which three are selected by the Secretary to the Ministry of Youth Affairs. They are, one member from the indigenous Community, one member from the Malay community and the other member from the differently-abled youth of the country.

The Youth Parliament is divided into two groups, the government group and the opposition group, the government group having 168 members and the opposition group having 167 members. Members of both the groups indulge themselves in parliamentary debates and putting forward their ideas, some members opposing and some members supporting, of course confining themselves to parliamentary language.

In the late 1990s the Youth Service Council set up Youth Provincial Councils and Youth Pradeshiya Sabhas in addition to the Youth Parliament, where democratic values are being instilled in the adolescent minds, especially rural youth.

The forthcoming ninth Commonwealth Youth Forum will be an ideal venue for our Youth Parliamentarians to showcase their democratic talents after 30-year war against terrorism. (menikb@gmail.com)

The writer is from the Sri Lanka Foreign Service, Ministry of External Affairs.

 

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