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It should by now be recognized that no society can reach its full potential if whole segments of that society, especially young people, are excluded from participating in, contributing to, and benefiting from development – Ban Ki-moon (Secretary-General United Nations)



The statement here is an indication of the United Nations’ concern for youth participation in social issues. In a report which the Secretary General presented, he stressed that now more than ever the youth plays a key role in forming a successful society.

As a means of elevating young people, the United Nations Youth Delegate Programme (UNYD) provides young people aged 18 to 25 the opportunity to engage in inter-governmental meetings. In Sri Lanka the programme is the combined effort of the State ministry of Youth affairs and the National Youth Services Council. Representing Sri Lanka Ms. Naushalya Rajapaksha and Thilina Panduwawala were named the official UN youth delegates for 2015.

They will be attending the 70th UN General Assembly in New York from September till mid-October. Following are the profiles of the two young delegates, who will be delivering national statements at the general assembly. Naushalya Rajapaksha, a past student at Musaeus College is currently a social change entrepreneur at United Nations Population Fund Association (UNFPA).

At the age of 21 she acclaims several proficient achievements. Being one of the top 20 global leaders on the world conference of youth 2015 exposed her to many ministries in Sri Lanka.  Along with her talents and international exposure, Naushalya is a passionate leader willing to represent the youth and women of Sri Lanka and tackle their problems.

Her key interests in social issues are educating the public on civic engagement.

 “With the gaps in Sri Lanka’s education system, we think that being political is only running for elections while it’s not. There’s a lot more and civic engagement is not just related to political decision making. And this needs to be educated to the people,” she said. She is also involved in addressing sexual harassment and developing youth skills, so as to create employability.

As a fierce combatant on sexual harassments she conducted the first national survey on harassments in public transport .

She is part of the project On the Way and Sri Lanka Unites, Show You Care campaigns. Thilina Panduwawala, 21, completed his primary education at the Gateway College. His performance at school was exemplary, and he qualified extremely well at ALs in the science stream. Currently, he is a student of International Affairs at Royal Institute.

Thilina had been a medical student for one year in China, but had stopped his twenty year pursuit of medical education to serve society as an international advocate instead.

Influenced by his winding education pathway, he expressed his concern in broadening Sri Lanka’s education system, which he calls “a box-system education where everybody aims to be a doctor, engineer or a lawyer.”

He also revealed that being an international school student, he felt a divisive gap between national school and international school students. He intends to close this gap by promoting social entrepreneurship in order to avoid clashes in the future between the two factions.

Thilina’s personal interests include shifting the education paradigms, creating employability, promoting social entrepreneurship and addressing the gradually growing issue of climate change in Sri Lanka.

Presently, Thilina is the Secretary at the Model United Nations and a writer for UNDP.  He is the founding editor of The International Cauldron through which he encourages young people to write analytically on international and Sri Lankan issues.

Speaking to the Daily mirror, the delegates explained that the selection procedure gave unbiased opportunities to all applicants without just limiting to the ‘English speaking Colombo crowd.

The selections included interviews conducted by civil society members who allowed the applicants to speak in whichever language they felt comfortable.

Both delegates spoke highly of how this selection process and the entire UN youth delegate programme benefits the Sri Lankan youth.

They expect more young people to take part in this programme in the years to come.  “We are not impossible people. Now that you know the selection process and know it has no limitations anyone can apply for this. It sets up targets in young people’s lives and it is a firsthand opportunity for young people to participate in a general assembly where only heads of state attend” they said. The upcoming general assembly which they attend is also one of the most important UN events since that in the year 2000. It will discuss global problems and finalize the post 2015 development which sets the goals for global development within the next 15 years.

The UN General Assembly’s third committee will also be preparing a UN youth resolution, which is passed once in every two years.

By delivering their national youth statements, these delegates will also get actively involved in building this resolution.

However, Thilina and Naushalya said that they had realised their personal perspectives on social issues itself would not suffice in this process.

They said they understood that Sri Lankan youth dealt with a lot more problems than their counterparts in other countries and urged the youth of Sri Lanka to bring forward their opinions and solutions as well.

Thilina also expressed how he wanted to encourage the youth to engage more and explore the opportunities and look into the key social issues.

Currently the delegates are working on National Youth Campaigns covering 25 districts to communicate the ‘real problems’ that Sri Lankan youth faced.

They also hope to discuss the problems on social media, where one can voice his/her thoughts through #TellUNYDs and assist in forming a mandate which they can present at the UN. As a final message Thilina and Naushalya reminded that it was the youth whom they were representing.

“It is the chance of 4.4 million young people. You tell us what to do and we can be accountable for it,”
they say in unison.  
Pics by Kushan Pathiraja


 
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See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.