Educating, empowering and involving Youth

untitledText of a presentation at the World Conference on Youth – 8 May 2014

I am grateful to Aide et Action for this opportunity to speak to you, and even more grateful that they have engaged in a process of international consultation to highlight issues crucial for the well-being of youth. The document they have put together provides a clear and concise account of how the areas initially touched upon in the Colombo Declaration can be fleshed out meaningfully.

Underlying the suggestions are a few basic principles that need continuous emphasis. Inclusivity and involvement, information and awareness, empowerment and equal access, all require greater attention from governments.

To achieve this, I think it is necessary to pursue comprehensive reform with regard to mindsets. Reform is of course central to the agenda of Liberalism, which is the creed I uphold, but I think in this context we should also use another word, which has often been twinned with Liberalism.  I refer to the term Radicalism, which means essentially the idea of getting to the core of things and uprooting whatever is not conducive to progress. It is because Liberalism has often been misunderstood, and thought to stand for only free market policies, that in many areas Liberals associate themselves with Radicals, as in an institution of great energy and commitment, the International Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth. This juxtaposition was sometimes necessary to emphasize the Liberal commitment to inclusive progress.

Liberals do indeed believe in free markets, but they also realize, unlike capitalists and conservatives, that markets are not free unless measures are in place to reduce inequalities, to enhance opportunities and to control power, whether it be political, economic, social or physical. The creation of a level playing field may be an impossible dream, but that does not reduce the imperative to pursue this.

This dream, this ideal, lies at the heart of the Colombo declaration, and the additions Aide et Action have suggested on the basis of their consultations in four continents and 16 countries. The details of the consultation make clear how AEA is well qualified to undertake such a task, given the remarkable work it has engaged in all over the world.

I have seen this system of aid in action in just two countries, India and Sri Lanka, but the confidence of their students, and the initiatives they undertake, make it clear that this is an organization that puts its principles into practice. It is for this reason that, over the last couple of years, I have used much of my decentralized budget to set up Vocational Training Centres in the North to be run by Aide et Action. I should add that I was keen that these be set up in schools, to emphasize the link between academic and vocational education, something that the consultations have stressed is necessary. I am happy to say that the initial snooty approach of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education to Vocational Training is now changing – though not fast enough for my liking – and I received active cooperation from the authorities, both earlier and now, more recently, from the new Provincial administration.

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UNHCR recommendations accepted by Sri Lanka to improve Human Rights

1. Consider ratifying the Palermo Protocol on human trafficking. (Philippines)


2.
Make further efforts to ratify other relevant international instruments that are vital to the promotion and protection of Human Rights, in keeping with its national capacity and priority. (Cambodia)


3.
Continue efforts to implement the National Action Plan for the protection and promotion and human rights. (Bahrain)


4.
Expedite action to implement the agreed Action Plan in line with the spirit of the LLRC through a process inclusive of all people belonging to all ethnicity. (Bangladesh)


5.
Steady implementation of the National Action Plan for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights as well as the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC. (Japan)


6.
Take all steps to strengthen and ensure the independence of the National Human Rights Commission. (Germany)


7.
Ensure structural and operational independence of the national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. (Maldives)


8.
Strengthen the independence of institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Police Commission and Election Commission. (Norway)


9.
Take action to facilitate greater participation by citizens and civil society in helping to implement human rights action plans. (Australia)


10.
Maintain and strengthen cooperation with various UN mechanisms, as well as financial institutions to overcome the challenges faced in the peace and national reconciliation process. (Benin)


11.
Share with the international community its experiences in rehabilitating and reintegrating former LTTE child soldiers. (Cuba)


12.
Prioritize the rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers. (Italy)


13.
Provide greater cooperation to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to accomplish its work. (Ecuador)


14.
Ensure women’s participation in the post-conflict, reconstruction and peace building process. (Finland)


15.
Adopt necessary measures to ensure that gender equality is a legal and practical reality, combating particularly gender violence.(Spain)


16.
Criminalize all forms of violence against women and hold the perpetrators of such violence accountable. (South Africa)


17.
Increase efforts on strengthening protection of children’s rights in such areas as child labour, domestic violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation. (Iran)


18.
Consider incorporating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders, otherwise known as the “Bangkok Rules“ as part of its work on the treatment of prisoners. (Thailand)


19.
Fully and transparently investigate alleged grave breaches of international humanitarian law during the conflict. (UK)


20.
Take necessary measures to bring to justice and prosecute perpetrators of violations of the international human rights law and humanitarian Law. (Chile)


21.
Take necessary steps to ensure that all detainees are afforded a fair trial within a reasonable period. (Ireland)


22.
Continue to carry out the policy aimed at improving the judicial system, reforming law enforcement bodies and decreasing the level of crime and corruption. (Russia)


23.
Carry out an independent and credible investigation on the allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. (Switzerland)


24. 
Ensure legal ownership and return or restitution of houses and lands to internally displaced persons, according to international standards. (Holy See)


25.
Remain committed to sustainable economic and social development, further promote national reconciliation, and achieve stability and development in the country. (China)