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Sunday, 25 August 2013

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CHOGM in South Asia after 30 years:

A great milestone in capacity building of Lanka’s youth skills

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is scheduled to be held at the BMICH, Colombo in November 2013. The last CHOGM meeting held in the South Asian Region was in India during the period November 23 to 29, 1983 and the 23rd CHOGM meeting to be held in Sri Lanka 30 years thereafter can be considered an important event not only for Sri Lanka but also for the entire South Asian Region.


Youth to the fore

With the culmination of the 23rd CHOGM meeting, the Chairmanship of the Commonwealth heads of States will be conferred on the President of Sri Lanka for two years commencing November 2013 until the next CHOGM meeting to be held in Port Louis, Mauritius in 2015.

Meanwhile, the 9th Commonwealth Youth Forum is scheduled to be held at the International Convention Centre, Hambantota during the period November 10 to 14, 2013. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and the National Youth Services Council are already playing an important role in this regard.

A Youth-Led Task Force (YLTF), consisting five youth leaders from Commonwealth member countries and five youth leaders from Sri Lanka, with co-chairs from each group will be responsible for the planning and the organising of the CYF. The Task Force will consist of five youth leaders from Commonwealth member countries and five youth leaders from Sri Lanka, with co-chairs from each group and is responsible for the entire program, including the daily agenda, themes for plenary sessions and the identification of resource persons, among others.

This will, no doubt, be an important juncture in the development of international relations of Sri Lanka. Therefore, I consider that this is the opportune moment to emphasise the importance of the Commonwealth Youth Program and its history.

The development plans that came the world over, both in developed and developing countries, after the Second World War paid greater attention to youth development related activities, the psychological aspects and the hopes and expectations of youth being considered most important.

At the same time the United Nations defined “youth” as those between the age groups of 15 to 24 years and launched special programs worldwide for their benefit with a view to improving their knowledge in Youth Development Activities. Some countries have introduced training courses leading to the award of university degrees and diplomas in the youth related fields. Presently the Commonwealth Youth Affairs division also is being considered an important institution within the commonwealth body.

The Commonwealth organisation is the second largest International Organisation in the world, the largest being the United Nations. Currently 54 countries hold membership of the Commonwealth. The membership of Fuji was suspended on December 8, 2006 due to a power struggle within the country leading to a coup d'etat. Zimbabwe withdrew voluntarily its membership on December 7, 2003 after its suspension of membership on March 19, 2002.

At present several countries are seeking membership of the Commonwealth. They are Algeria, Somaliland (a self-declared nation that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia), Madagascar, South Sudan, Sudan, Surinam and Yemen.

The population of the member countries of the Commonwealth worldwide is around 228 billion (2,280 million) therefore hosting the 23rd meeting of the CHOGM and at the same time holding the Commonwealth Youth Program as well the commonwealth Economic Forum in the country will be of immense benefit to our nation.

The Commonwealth Youth Program is dedicated to the development of youth activities in the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth. Its Headquarters is located in London. To facilitate the activities of the Commonwealth Youth Forum, four regional centres had been established, viz. African, Asian, Caribbean and South Pacific. The African Regional Youth Centre is located in Lusaka, Zambia. The Asian Regional Youth Centre is located in Chandigarh, India. The Caribbean Regional Youth Centre is located in George Town, Guyana and the South Pacific Youth Centre is located in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The Commonwealth Youth Centre for Asia, which was established in 1975 and located in the Indian city of Chandigarh co-ordinates the youth development activities of Asian countries, viz., Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka. In the year 1984 two other regional centres were established in South Pacific and Caribbean: Georgetown, Guyana. The average age of more than half of the population of the Commonwealth member countries is 30 years and investing in these young people will be of paramount importance in achieving the “Millennium Development Goals”.

In this regard, I wish to refer to the “Coolum Declaration” in 2002 when the Commonwealth Heads of Governments made clear their determination to address the question of poverty alleviation by harnessing the skills, knowledge and energy of a highly motivated younger generation.

The CYP Asia Regional Centre currently runs programs extracted from the New “Plan of action for Youth Empowerment 2006-2015”, an overarching implementation agenda that provides a blueprint for youth development. It is relevant for governments, development partners, youth networks and young women and men who are valued partners in the process.

The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) 2013 will be held for five days from No. 10-14, 2013, in Hambantota.

The CYF is organised with several objectives including ‘To allow youth leaders to exchange ideas and cultures, for youth participants to build skills and network, and to work toward identifying the most vital challenges and opportunities facing young people at present ‘The four days will be allocated for the main forum of the Commonwealth Youth Forum while one day will be set aside for sightseeing.

Participants of the CYF will have the opportunity to take part in professional skills development programs, capacity building activities and cross-cultural programs. These are the events and activities being planned for this year's CYF.

The General Assembly of Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) will hold its sessions during the Commonwealth Youth Forum. The new officials for the Assembly will be selected during the session.

The General Assembly, the platform representing the voice of youth, will be an independent body, where their views can be raised freely. The General Assembly of the CYC will meet once in every two years and will be the highest decision-making organ of the CYF.

Newly elected youth leaders of the CYC and co-chairs of the CYF Youth-Led Task Force will interface with the Heads of Governments so as to share among themselves the experience they gain in their activities and to decide as to how the youth groups can work together with governments in order to achieve their objectives during the ensuing two years.

The other important event is the award ceremony which will be held to recognise and appreciate the accomplishments of award-winners from across the Commonwealth. The foreign delegates and their local counterparts will voluntarily participate in community projects locally arranged, which in turn will contribute to major national developments initiated by the government.

Arrangements will be made for the participants to be taken on site-seeing visits to places of historical and cultural significance, some of which are classified as ‘world heritage sites”. Such visits will enable us to show the world the rich heritage of the Sri Lankans and the organising capacity of the country.

The writer from the Sri Lanka Foreign Service is the Director (Middle East) Ministry of External Affairs, Colombo.

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