Sri Lanka’s Youth Affairs Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi was elected chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Conference for the next four years at the conclusion of the group’s seventh meeting on Wednesday (29). A total of 161 delegates, including officials from the Commonwealth Secretariat representing 41 countries, participated in the meeting held at the Cinnamon Grand in Colombo.
This year’s theme was ‘Youth and Peace Building’. The need to engage young people, who often constitute a majority of militants in peace efforts was stressed. Young people can provide leadership and inspiration to societies in conflict if they were given the opportunities, Deputy Secretary General Commonwealth Secretariat Florence Mugasha told the media during the final sessions of the conference.
Among the proposals made at the conference were, reservation of funds in the annual Budget for youth development, the introduction of a youth empowerment perspective in the work of all relevant departments, and setting up appropriate mechanisms for youth participation in policy making, Florence Mugasha said.
The youth ministers’ conference had helped to clear a number of misconceptions about Sri Lanka among member countries and show them what efforts the country was making towards achieving peace. "We were also able to demonstrate our commitment to youth empowerment by showing them that 40 percent of candidates contesting local government elections from all political parties should be youth under our election laws. Although women and children empowerment was currently enforced by law in most countries, the conference found that our election laws empowering youth were ahead of the laws of most other nations," Pavithra Wanniarachi said.
Conference Secretary Dr. Fatiha Serour, Director Communication and Public Affairs Eduardo Del Buey and a PAN-Commonwealth Youth Caucus member were present at the press conference.