Statement delivered by H.E. Mohan Pieris, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the U.N. at the World Youth Skills Day 2022, Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Representatives of the UN family

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Excellencies, Friends,

As we meet again in-person after three years, having celebrated the World Youth Skills Day in a virtual platform in 2020 and 2021, I wish to convey my sincere appreciation to my fellow cohost of this event, Ambassador of Portugal, as well as UNESCO, ILO and the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, for their support in bringing this event together.

I cannot resist the temptation of recalling the words of Khalil Gibran the poet on the greatest treasure, we have our Youth; Youth is a beautiful dream, on whose brightness books shed a blinding dust. Will ever the day come when the wise link the joy of knowledge to youth’s dream?

Will ever the day come when Nature becomes the teacher of man, humanity his book and life his school? Youth’s joyous purpose cannot be fulfilled until that day comes. Too slow is our march toward spiritual elevation, because we make so little use of youth’s ardor.

How apt those are in today’s context, “Transforming Youth Skills for the Future”, has never been more timely than today where the world is beginning to deal with the post-pandemic realities.

Transforming Youth Skills for the Future has become an important and integral part of every country’s development agenda.

The 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt speaking of youth was heard to say that“character in the long run is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike” Equipping the youth with skills, as the agents of change in our nations and their inclusion in peace and security as well as economic and social development are the keys to sustainable peace and development. Against this backdrop, in the ‘transforming’ process of imparting relevant skills, ensuring the right of the young people to quality, relevant, and inclusive lifelong opportunities is indispensable.

In this regard, it is with pleasure that we acknowledge the outcome of the preparatory meeting on Transforming Education Summit held in Paris in the last month.

Excellencies, Friends,

As the Deputy Secretary General of the UN pointed out in the last year, the challenges are substantial as we are faced with the reality of having 3.7 billion people, mostly women, or almost half of the world’s population, still offline. Connecting all of them, and specially the young people out of them, would be crucial in helping them to realize their potential.

Eight years ago, Sri Lanka together with Portugal and G77 and China, spearheaded the General Assembly resolution 69/145 establishing July 15th as the “World Youth Skills Day”. The main purpose envisioned through the resolution was to foster the acquisition of skills by youth to enhance their ability to make informed choices with regard to their livelihoods and empower them to gain access to changing labour markets. Today, it has become a pivotal occasion for youth, and it is heartening to note the growing significance of this universally recognized UN day, in drawing the attention of the world to the importance of youth skills development.

In Sri Lanka, the National Youth Corps (NYC), which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, has focused on developing soft and life skills of the youth. The Life Skills Basic Training Course, which is accredited by the internationally recognized City & Guilds (Assured Certificate in Professional Life Skills) is designed to enhance the Sri Lankan youth’s discipline, leadership & personality. The updated Life Skills curricular of the NYC is aligned with the” Four-Dimensional and Systems Approach to 21st Century Skills – UNICEF-2017”, which endeavors towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)4 of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

In addition, NYC provides an advanced certificate in Information Technology (IT) and English Language with the cooperation of the Sri Lanka Institute of Buddhist Academy (SIBA Campus) an academic institute registered under the University Grant Commission (UGC) of Sri Lanka to fulfill the English language and IT requirement. In addition, with the view to developing youth skills in the hospitality sector, La Hotelier Hotel Training School”, of the NYC is conducting

National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) courses with special attention on the young school leavers.

Further, the Ministry of Education of Sri Lanka has collaborated with foreign vocational training institutes to enhance research capacities, training and research via human resource exchange, capacity building, joint students’ activities and other related activities in vocational education.

The University of Vocational Technology and the Ocean University of Sri Lanka are two key partners in this process. The Ministry is having partnerships via signing MOUs with leading private industries such as companies involved in construction and tourism, to gauge the industry demand and supply Tertiary, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates as per the market requirement through the institutes such as National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) and Vocational Training Authority (VTA).

Excellencies, Friends,

In order to contribute to the national unity and issues affecting youth at the national and regional level and placing them in decision making, the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) has established the Youth Parliament of Sri Lanka in 2011 as a platform for politically aspired young leaders to meaningfully engage and to enhance their leadership skills, gain experience in the political sphere and to represent fellow young people and their interests at the national level. We believe that this youth parliament would provide impetus for aspiring young leaders in the future to take on the stewardship of the country towards new heights.

Excellencies, Friends,

With less than 8 years remaining to realize the 2030 agenda, we believe that the discussion of transforming the youth skills for the future assumes great significance. Our focus should be on inclusive, gender-responsive and a holistic policy approach, leaving no one behind. If the right decisions could be taken at the right time, we believe that the impact on the lives of the youth across the globe could be meaningful. Today, we remain hopeful that the transformation envisaged for the future will break new ground leading to our collective humanity triumphing over the challenges that confront us.

I thank you

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