Sri Lanka is hosting the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations 2011 and making it possible to organize the meeting in connection with the UN High Level Meeting on Youth. We managed to sit down with the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, H.E. Dr. Palitha T.B. Kohona, to hear more about the background for the meeting and what’s at stake.
Dr. Kohona, what are the most important challenges for youth in Sri Lanka today?
– I would say that reconciliation after the conflict, reconstruction and economic development are the most important challenges facing young people in our country nowadays.
Dr. Kohana is explaining how the 26 year long conflict has affected the society and slowed development but also how the country is investing in free education and free health care services – recognizing how this contributes to social and economic development.
One outstanding success story is the work to prevent HIV to spread in Sri Lanka – the number of people living with the virus in Sri Lanka is remarkably low not only in an Asian context but also globally.
– Investing in and working with civil society is important to overcome the challenges caused by the conflict. For us it is natural that civil society is involved in all political processes in Sri Lanka, and we would like to see more of this also on the international level. We are happy to host the International Coordination Meeting on Youth (ICMYO) here in New York, so that a range of youth-led organizations get to influence next week’s High-Level Meeting on Youth in the United Nations.
The ICMYO has been organized every year since 2004 – this is the first time it takes place in the immediate proximity of the United Nations Headquarters. For many of the involved this is a dream which is coming true.
Dr. Kohona, what are your expectations for the High-Level Meeting?
– I think the draft outcome document is both concrete and action-oriented. It is important that the member states take the recommendations back home and together with civil society transform them into national action plans fitting their own context and challenges.
From the sideline Sanka Abayawardena, international affairs adviser in the National Youth Services Council, explains how Sri Lanka already has a system in place for working on the implementation. The ambassador is on his way to Palestine and has to catch a flight but we have the time for one more question:
Do you see the increased focus on youth in the United Nations as a shift towards increased recognition of the role youth-led organizations can play in development cooperation?
– Well, this is why we need organizations like the ones gathering in ICMYO. It is important that those of you representing these organizations are there and demonstrating how civil society organisations contribute.