The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka has launched a program to empower the youth around the country to come together to address social issues and build lasting peace.According to the UNFPA, Sri Lanka's youth population is estimated to be 4.4 million and therefore, 25 percent of the total population have the potential to actively participate in policymaking, drive innovative ideas, and to contribute towards sustaining peace in Sri Lanka.
Recognizing this, the UNFPA in Sri Lanka, giving effect to the Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace, and Security (UNSCR 2250), strives to mobilize young people as integral stakeholders in peace building and decision-making processes.UNFPA's Youth4Youth program empowers young people from the Northern, Eastern, Southern, and Central provinces to come together to discuss social issues and to propose and implement community projects to address these issues, while learning from each other. During the program, youth also have the opportunity to engage with mentors from the Government, private-sector, academia, and civil society, to receive guidance in designing sustainable and community projects.
The program facilitates provincial symposiums to connect young people from around the island and to promote youth participation in peace building. "This will be my first time travelling to the South of Sri Lanka", said Suhail (23) from Mullaitivu, sharing his views on the upcoming Youth4Youth Southern Province symposium to be held from 3 - 6 May 2018. "I am really excited about meeting and interacting with young people of our age, who are from a totally different region in the country!"
Suhail initially engaged with UNFPA through the first Youth4Youth regional symposium for youth from the Northern Province that was held in November 2017. During the 4-day regional symposium, over 100 youth from 5 districts of the Northern Province came together to actively discuss and implement solutions to address issues within their communities.
As a member of the youth-led organizing committee of Youth4Youth, Suhail also travelled to Batticaloa to be part of the second Youth4Youth regional symposium for youth from the Eastern Province. This four-day symposium was held in February 2018, and brought together over 80 young people representing various communities from both urban and rural settings of the Eastern Province, as well as students from the Vaalvosai School for Deaf Children in Batticaloa.
Suhail is one of the 10 active members of the youth-led organizing committee, who travels to the different provinces to meet with like-minded young people from around the country, through the Youth4Youth program.
Speaking on the importance of the Youth4Youth program, UNFPA Representative in Sri Lanka, Ms. Ritsu Nacken, said the recent acts of communal violence were disheartening, and proved even more the reason why young people must be at the heart of peacebuilding. "Young people are a strong force of creativity, innovation, and change. We are proud to enable youth to connect with their brothers and sisters from the North, East, South, and Central Provinces, and to provide them a platform to continuously engage with one another, towards building lasting peace."The Youth4 program is delivered by UNFPA in partnership with UN Volunteers (UNV), and supported by the UN Peacebuilding Fund.