In Sri Lanka, UN chief highlights key role of young people in building peace and sustainable development

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses a youth event in Galle, Sri Lanka. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

1 September 2016 – Involvement of all sections of the society, in particular its young people, in bottom-up peace building approaches is vital to ensure sustainable social justice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today at a youth event in Sri Lanka.

“Why should young people be sent off to fight wars, but be prevented from building peace?” Mr. Ban said in his remarks at the event, which had the theme of “Reconciliation and Coexistence: Role of Youth.’

He added that the exclusion of young people from peacebuilding and reconciliation processes is “one of the most serious injustices” and that it has to be corrected.

The Secretary-General flagged that youth played a critical role in designing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was agreed and adopted by world leaders last year, along with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the latter serving as a global plan for people, peace, prosperity and the planet.

“Many of the Goals focus on priority areas for young people: quality education, empowering women and girls, and ensuring decent work for all,” said Mr. Ban, calling on the young people “to lead the way.”

Referring to Sri Lanka as a major contributor to the youth agenda globally – such as with its hosting of the 2014 World Conference on Youth – the UN chief highlighted that, at the national level, it is important to continue to increase investment in the young women and men who make up one fifth of the country’s population.

“You are your country’s biggest asset. Sri Lanka’s future success depends on you,” he said.

Noting that many young people in the country were born and lived the early stages of their lives during conflict, terror and displacement and have had to suffer deprivations and injustice, Mr. Ban underscored that involvement in peacebuilding, reconciliation and post-conflict transformation provides an opportunity to emerge from trauma and play a part in creating a better future.

He introduced Thevuni Kavindi, whom he recently appointed to his Advisory Group on Youth, Peace and Security on International Youth Day this year, to the audience. He said that Ms. Kavindi, a 23-year-old Sri Lankan, is playing a leading role in the country’s youth movement which is working to unite young people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds across the country to promote reconciliation and lasting peace.

Asking them to take inspiration from Ms. Kavindi, the Secretary-General urged the country’s young people to “continue to prove that Sri Lanka is emerging from decades of adversity, suspicion and divisiveness. Please lead the way towards rebuilding, reconciliation and an appreciation of diversity in unity,” he concluded.

Earlier on Thursday, the UN chief met with the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, to whom he pledged his continued support for Sri Lanka’s reform agenda, including for the reconciliation, transitional justice and peacebuilding processes.

“He expressed hope for increased momentum in these important areas. He also endorsed the comprehensive Peacebuilding Priority Plan,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a readout of the meeting.

He added that the Secretary-General was encouraged by President Sirisena’s leadership and commitment to stay the course and fulfil the aspirations of the Sri Lankan people in bringing lasting peace and prosperity for all. He also commended the Sri Lankan leader for his leadership on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and climate change, and welcomed the government’s initiatives to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals into the national development framework.


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