The UN in Sri Lanka marked its anniversary with a dialogue on young people’s role in the future of multilateralism.
Colombo, 23rd October 2020: As part of this year’s 75th anniversary of the world largest intergovernmental body, the United Nations in Sri Lanka organized a panel discussion with youth activists and experienced leaders who shared ideas on our current global challenges and young people’s role in shaping solutions in line with a multilateral, all-of-society’s approach.
The dialogue, held under the theme, ‘Shaping Our Future Together – Multilateralism and Youth in the New Normal,’ was part of a year-long campaign to mark the formation of the UN organization right after the end of the Second World War.
Attending as Chief Guest, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said, “I appreciate the United Nations support for a wide range of sectors such as health, education, environment, agriculture and food security. In addition to remaining committed to children’s rights and safety, I remain equally committed to addressing the challenges faced by women and girls, the elderly and the differently abled, and look forward to working closely with the UN Resident Coordinator and the Country Team”.
He added that “as Member States I believe we need support the United Nations as it evolved into a more agile and accountable institution”.
In a recorded message, the Guest of Honour, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunerwardena, said that “the theme of this commemoration – ‘shaping our future together ‘– is future-focused and reiterates the importance of collective action for the future that we wish for. Youth has been recognised as the center of the UN75 Dialogue and the role of the youth and the way they perceive the future is pivotal in this context.”
The UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer, said, “It has been the privilege of the United Nations to partner with the people of Sri Lanka on a remarkable journey. As we celebrate our years of partnership, let us also look to the future. Today, as we discuss how to rebuild our lives and livelihoods from the impact of COVID-19, I invite you all to be bold in imagining the future we want – and can – create, here in Sri Lanka and across the world. In this spirit, the UN is engaged in a global listening exercise, asking young people about the future that they want”.
As part of the event, a high-level UN75 Dialogue brought together young Sri Lankan influencers and experienced leaders to discuss ‘the role of youth in harnessing multilateral cooperation for COVID-19 recovery’.
Featured as a panel member, Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Hon. Namal Rajapaksa noted the importance of technology in bringing young people together and ensuring they were well equipped for the job market by obtaining the right skills needed for the future.
He was joined by a group of dynamic young people; Academic and Advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals Dr. Buddima Sinasinghe, Assistant Director of the Ministry of Education Shadika Wazir and Activist and Digital Storyteller Benislos Thushan. Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Chairman of UN Global Compact Sri Lanka Dilhan Fernando, President of Sarvodaya Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Research Economist of the Institute of Policy Studies Kithmina Hewage, Co-Founder of Hashtag Generation Mahishaa Balraj, Founder of UDecide Saranee Gunathilaka and Youth and Peace Activist Anojitha Sivaskaran also joined the dialogue as discussants.
The panel discussion focused on the importance of global cooperation and innovative solutions as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the deliberations, the representative group of participants underlined the key role young people have in the recovery efforts towards a sustainable future, and how much their energy, enthusiasm and innovation are needed to build a better world.
The event was organized in line with the UN’s objective this year of igniting a global debate. The UN75 campaign aims to be the largest and furthest-reaching worldwide conversation on building the future we want. By listening and learning, responding and engaging with as many people and constituencies as possible, it will also be an opportunity to trigger a dialogue about the UN itself.
Opening Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer:
This afternoon, I welcome you to the 75th Anniversary celebration of the United Nations, here in Sri Lanka.
In these complex times, this is an unconventional UN day; as we connect with you online.
As we weather the storm of this global pandemic as one human family, I want to echo the words of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
He notes that today, the founding mission of the UN is more critical than ever.
To promote human dignity. Protect human rights. Respect international law. And save humanity from war.
As the Secretary-General says, in 2020 we face colossal challenges. However, with global solidarity and cooperation, we can overcome them.
That’s what the United Nations is all about.
On this anniversary, the Secretary-General asks people everywhere to join together.
The United Nations not only stands with you. The United Nations belongs to you and is you.
75 years ago the Charter began with the words:
“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations”.
As we celebrate today, let us honour that promise, each and everyone of us, as a united human family in the 21st century.
Together, let us uphold the enduring values of the United Nations Charter while we build on our advances across the decades.
And Sri Lanka has certainly made considerable advances over the past decades.
Among the numerous accomplishments that this island can rightly be proud of are:
a significantly reduced poverty rate;
an excellent public healthcare system, with nearly every child immunized and the successful elimination of Malaria and Mother to Child transmission of HIV/AIDS;
an accessible school system with high rates of female literacy;
a capable civil service;
a resilient domestic service sector and an internationally acclaimed; manufacturing sector, driving economic growth; and
most recently, a whole-of-government effort to combat the corona virus
The United Nations is proud of its partnership with the people of Sri Lanka on this remarkable journey. As we celebrate 75 years of our partnership, let us continue to shape our future together.
Today, as we discuss how to rebuild our lives and livelihoods from the impact of COVID-19, I invite you all to be bold in imagining the future we want – and can – create, here in Sri Lanka and across the world. In this spirit, the UN is engaged in a global listening exercise, asking young people about the future that they want.
The UN75 Youth Plenary, convened in September, suggests that young people want: less inequality, better access to basic services, more support for the hardest-hit areas, and more investment in youth and education. Their biggest concerns are the destruction of the environment, inadequate responses to climate change and health care. And their solutions are based on inclusion, better protection for the most vulnerable and a fairer global economy.
As we celebrate UN75 today, I look forward to hearing from you, our distinguished guests, our vibrant young panelists and followers on social media.
I invite you whole-heartedly to share your wisdom, passion and inspiration, but also to voice your caution, criticism and concerns.
After all, the main demand of young people is to play a more meaningful role in decision making, in the UN and beyond. And by listening genuinely, we can truly begin to shape our future together.
In this spirit, let us recommit today to the values of the UN and choose facts over fear, solidarity over division, understanding over discrimination, and to uphold the rights of everyone, everywhere, as we go into the next decades of global partnership.