It is vital that a broader youth coalition in Parliament is established to address the issues of Young People and their society: YPLF


The World Conference on Youth 2014 hosted under the leadership of the Ministry of Youth Affairs was the highlight of Colombo’s agenda last week. The overarching theme of the conference: strengthening of youth in decision making processes in development and implementation of the UN’s post 2015 development agenda is of significant importance in the contemporary development debate. The Conference provided a platform for various youth organizations, activists and others who are interested in the discourse to engage in the dialogue.

Ensuring inclusive youth participation at policy making level has been mooted as a critical challenge, particularly in governance. Various attempts to bring together young people who participate in legislature - irrespective of their political party differences under a single platform, supported by state and non-state youth initiatives at all levels were highlighted in the conference. The Young Political Leaders Forum (YPLF) of Sri Lanka is such an attempt by International Alert, for the purpose of ensuring inclusive youth participation in realizing sustainable development and lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

YPLF is a cross party group of young Members of the Parliament of Sri Lanka and other young political leaders who have come together to positively impact reconciliation and sustainable development in Sri Lanka. The forum consists of a committed group of young political leaders including Vasantha Senanayake MP (SLFP), Shehan Semasinghe MP (SLFP), Niroshan Perera MP (UNP), Harin Fernando MP (UNP), Hunais Farook MP (ACMC) and Raghu Balachandran (TNA), representing multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-constituency interests across the island beyond individual party ideologies.

YPLF hosted a side event in the recently held World Conference on Youth 2014. They used the opportunity to highlight some of the forum’s initiatives over the last three years including their proposal for a National Day of Remembrance and Unity, engagement with the diaspora groups, development of collective policy measures to address key issues faced by Muslim IDPs from the North of Sri Lanka, and efforts to strengthen the effective participation of women in politics at the national level. Hon Harin Fernando pointed out the importance of a broader coalition of civil society actors, senior and young Members of Parliament, to ensure that the young people will not experience another war in the country.

Shehan Semasinghe, explained YPLF engagement with "Achieve Real Change": a second generation group of British Sri Lankan professionals who have utilized their professional skills to contribute to the betterment of lives in Sri Lanka and pointed out the importance of the young people to engage with the diaspora youth to ensure sustainable peace in the country.

The discussion at the event also focused on the challenges to engage youth leaders in politics in Sri Lanka. Raghu Balachandran: a young political activist in the group spoke of some of these challenges, namely the difficulty of getting into politics for young people with no link to a political family, the limited support and power vested in the youth who are in politics today, the financial cost of politics and lack of engaging senior political role models.

The event by the YPLF at the conference focusing further on the role of young people and involving them in influencing and shaping important policy debated on development issues stressed the importance of young people focusing not only on the issues that only affect them but also that of the societies they live in. YPLF’s attempts to strengthen the post-war reconciliation were highlighted as one such example.

World Youth Conference 2014 provided an opportunity for Sri Lankan youth organizations i.e. YPLF to contribute to the global debate on youth participation in development where they reiterated the importance of youth participation on issues beyond that affect only the young people and stepping beyond the consultation to active involvement in policy formulation and implementation. In this regard, it is vital for the young people, including the young political leaders to come together irrespective of all other differences to make a better tomorrow.

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