International Youth Day

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By 2017-08-11

By Sunali Fernando

Youth of a country is more precious than gems and jewellery. Youth embodies the essence of a culture and shapes the future of a country. The young blood, the innovative minds and the determination to dare makes youth a valuable asset that must be cherished and protected. Youth is the key to ensuring peace and development of a country. Not only the future of a country, but the future of the whole world remains on the palm of the youth.

In celebration of the future leaders and the power of the youth, in 1999, in its resolution 54/120, the United Nation General Assembly declared August 12 as the International Youth Day. All persons between the ages of 15 and 24 are recognized as youth. Yet despite these commonly used categories, "youth" can include people up to the ages of 29 or 35.

Youth day focuses on development, peace, and participation and aims at empowering the youth. The theme of International Youth Day 2017 is Youth Building Peace. It celebrates young people's contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as social justice and sustainable peace. Security Council Resolution 2250 recognizes youth as agents of change and critical actors in conflict prevention and sustaining peace.

The World Programme of Action for Youth provides a policy framework and practical guidelines to improve the situation of young people. It prioritizes 10 areas of concern for young people: education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, leisure time activities, girls and young women, and participation. The programme identifies Youth's sexual and reproductive rights and health (SRRH) as an important element in empowering the youth and stresses the necessity of youth's access to sexual and reproductive health services, good quality information and education regarding sexuality.

Although millions of youth continue to face challenges such as poverty, incomplete education, lack of opportunities and health issues, many countries are now implementing plans to empower the youth, recognize their rights and prepare them to take over the future of the country. Sri Lanka has ensured the empowerment of the youth by providing them access to free health and education, ensuring that they become healthy and productive members of the society. The World Conference on Youth 2014 held in Sri Lanka called for the mainstreaming of youth into the post-2015 process.

Similar to the society having obligations to empower the youth, youth are also responsible for their future as well as the future of their country. Youth calls for experimentation, innovation and enjoyment. Regardless of the personal or professional life, these three concepts apply to all aspects of life. However, the culture and customs of some countries dictate limitations for the youth based on gender, social, racial or religious backgrounds. Yet being agents of change and resilience, youth are capable of shaping the future and ensuring fairness in all aspects of life starting with implementing new ideologies and recognizing hard work and dedication.

The youth of Sri Lanka are responsible for the society they live in today, but more so for the society they will have to live in tomorrow. The youth should welcome change and set new norms and standards, yet ensure the protection of the cultural essence and cultural identity. They should stand up for a country and unit in its diversity, in which people treat each other with dignity and fairness. The values in our Constitution should become the personal values that guide our decisions, actions and convictions. The future is in the hands of the youth.

As we celebrate the power and beauty of youth around the world, let us remember our duty and responsibility to our country and ensure a safe and developed country not only for us but for the generations to come as well.



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