From left: UNDP Cordination and Partnership Associate Kulunu Jayamanne, Knowledge Management and Reporting Associate Kithmini Nissanka, Citi Sri Lanka Corporate Affairs Head Shanaka Waduge, Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Ministry Secretary D.C. Dissanayake, Youth, Tech and Innovation Coordinator Ralani Weerasinghe and Hacka Dev National Youth Social Innovation Challenge winners Methdasun Sandamal and Parameshwaran Kovelan
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Citi Foundation, with the collaboration and support from the Science and Technology Ministry and the Viet Nam Volunteer Centre, opened the second Asia Pacific Youth Co:Lab Summit, in Hanoi yesterday.
The flagship event brings together over 500 delegates, including hundreds of youth, partners and government officials from 20 countries, to exchange ideas, knowledge and experiences, to influence policy initiatives on youth entrepreneurship and social innovation.
According to Asia Pacific Human Development Report 2016, more than half the young people in the world today live in Asia Pacific and 1.7 billion are under 25. The report further states that close to 71 million young people, aged 15 to 24, are unemployed worldwide, of which 33 million are in Asia Pacific alone. Nearly 220 million young people are neither at school, nor at work, presenting a daunting crisis that calls for an urgent response.
Co-created in 2017 by UNDP and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to empower and invest in youth, so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship.
Over the last two years, Youth Co:Lab projects have been implemented in 20 countries and territories across the region, with national dialogues, regional summits and social innovation challenges reaching over 48,000 participants. The initiative has benefitted over 2,500 young social entrepreneurs and helped launch or improve nearly 500 social enterprises.
Youth Co:Lab has also established partnerships with more than 100 key ecosystem players to strengthen the Youth Empowerment Alliance to support young entrepreneurs, particularly young women and marginalised youth, by connecting them with businesses, incubators, accelerators and financing mechanisms to develop their ideas into viable business models for sustainable social impact.
Speaking yesterday at the opening of the summit in National Economics University, Hanoi were UNDP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Valerie Cliff, Citi Foundation President and Citi Corporate Citizenship Head Brandee McHale, UNDP Viet Nam Resident Representative Caitlin Wiesen, Viet Nam Science and Technology Ministry Vice Minister Tran Van Tung and Viet Nam National Economics University Vice Rector Phạm Hồng Chương.
The two-day summit brings together several keynote speakers, prominent social entrepreneurs, youth change makers, principal government officials and leading ecosystem players, including Azerbaijan Rainergy Founder Reyhan Jamalova, World Toilet Organisation Founder Jack Sim, Maldives Youth Deputy Minister Mohamed Azmeel, Sri Lanka Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology Ministry Secretary D.C. Dissanayake and Philippines National Youth Commission Commissioner Jame Ceasar Alejandro Ventura.
The summit will conclude with the Youth Co:Lab Regional Social Innovation Challenge, where 30 teams, pre-selected during the national social innovation challenges held across 16 countries respectively, will pitch and showcase their social enterprises and ideas to a panel of esteemed judges.