EU and UNDP develop youth leadership at grass-roots level

The European Union (EU) together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently inaugurated a Youth Leadership Development Programme (YLDP) in the Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Mannar districts, where over 250 youth will commence a three-month long course conducted by the University of Jaffna (UoJ). The Vavuniya Campus and the Eastern University have joined hands with the UoJ to implement the course in their respective districts. The course will be later replicated in four other districts.

This youth development programme is carried out with funding provided through the European Union Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP). The EU-SDDP with a total financial envelope of EUR 60 million aims at supporting the Government of Sri Lanka’s thrust for economic and social development in 7 conflict-affected districts covering half a million people.

In the context of the YLDP, Ms. Libuse Soukupova, Head of Cooperation for the EU said "Reinforcing dialogue, promoting cooperation between the traditional education and innovative training sector, employers and public authorities is key to sustainable economic development. In this regard, I am very pleased with the intervention the YLDP is making in creating a new generation of youth leaders".

Addressing the low participation rate of youth and women in decision-making process for community development, which in turn negatively affects their skills and career opportunities, the YLDP provides an opening that will help create a generation of leaders who could strengthen both local development as well as the inclusion of disadvantaged groups. After the three-month programme, the selected youth would be able to provide business counselling service and other technical advisory support to the local entrepreneurs and community members. They will also be equipped with an understanding of how to strengthen good governance at community level and foster sustainable economic development in their districts. Furthermore, the community-based organisations that are represented by these selected youths would be better positioned to form partnerships with local government authorities and other development partners to enhance local economic development initiatives, with their youth leaders’ newly gained skills and competencies. Commenting on the YLDP Mr. Rajendrakumar Ganesarajah, Assistant Country Director of the UNDP stated that "Youth who complete this course will be better able to market themselves for employment opportunities and become effective social mobilisers in their communities".

The selection process was highly competitive, with only 400 youth, out of total 1,100 applicants, making it to the shortlist after the first review. The shortlisted participants attended a comprehensive orientation session where course expectations were discussed and team-building activity was conducted to enable them to get to know fellow course participants. Commenting on the programme, a youth participant from Vavuniya, Shobana Arumugam exclaimed: "This is the first step towards the progress of youth leadership in my community, I am excited."

Under the EU-SDDP programme, UNDP is strengthening the capacities of local governance by providing technical assistance to grass-roots level youth to engage in community development processes and to enhance networking with local government officers in a bid to improve accountability of local service providers.

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