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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Reconciliation towards Achieving Social Justice: Youth Perspectives

by Selyna Peiris, Attorney-at-Law

Keynote Speaker at the National Policy for Social Integration; Discussion Forum on Access to Justice and Legal Resources jointly Organised by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations & Strategic Studies and the Ministry of Social Integration and National Languages, September 2013.

The topic at hand contains a few terms, which are “buzzwords” in post-war Sri Lanka and used by many in various circles when addressing different development and social integration issues. Let me pick some out and attempt at the outset to connect these terms to today’s discussion and set the foundation for my presentation.

First let us begin with defining what “Social Justice” should be in the Sri Lankan context. Paraphrasing many a definition, one which suits the context is that “Social Justice”refers to the idea of creating an inclusive and democratic society that is based on the principles of equality and unity; one that understands and values human rights and further recognizes the dignity of every human being. If that is the desired goal, then how do we “reconcile” our fragmented society towards this? Sri Lanka as we all know is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural diverse Island. A unique particularity about the composition of this multicity is that more than half the population is of one religion, ethnicity and culture. This is therefore naturally reflected in the representations at the administration, policy-making and legislating bodies within the country. In light of this and among other reasons, the “other” or the minority of this composition may often feel excluded. Since Independence, we have seen that this feeling of exclusion has led to various conflicts in our society. Therefore, the process of reconciliation should then entail changing the relationships of these antagonistic parties for the better by taking actions that make one’s view or belief compatible with the others.  More importantly, it should contain actions which are genuinely seen as being collectively beneficial for all Sri Lankans.

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Foundation for the Construction of University College – Jaffna laid – 16th September 2013

Jaffna University CollegeThe foundation stone for the construction of University College-Jaffna was laid at Jaffna Technical College premises on 16th September 2013. With the sole purpose of upgrading the education standards of the province and according to the vision of Mahinda Chinthanaya, this building will be constructed at a cost of 115 million rupees by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development.

Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development Dullus Alahapperuma, Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda, Governor of Northern Province GA Chandrasiri, parliamentarian M.Chandrakumar and Monitoring Parliamentarian Mohanlal Grero participated as the guests and laid the foundation stones.

25 university colleges are being constructed all over the country with the funding of Ministry of Finance. Steps have been taken presently to construct 7 university colleges during the first phase of this project. In these colleges, 30 new courses are to be introduced. Totally 40 diploma courses are to be conducted. It is said that 300 students will be enrolled to the courses.

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