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
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
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
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
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
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. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The writer is from the Sri Lanka Foreign Service, Ministry of