Photo: Jayathma Wickramanayake. Credit: UN - Photo: 2017

Sri Lanka’s Jayathma Wickramanayake New UN Envoy on Youth

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka is the new UN Envoy on Youth. She succeeds Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan. Announcing this appointment, Secretary-General António Guterres said he was grateful for Alhendawi’s dedicated service in addressing the needs and rights of young people, bringing the work of the United Nations closer to them.

The success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on empowering young people as rights-holders, agents of change and torchbearers, Guterres said.

“Having represented and motivated global youth development on an international level since the age of 21, notably during high-level United Nations initiatives including the declaration of World Youth Skills Day,” the announcement on June 20 added, Wickramanayake “has also played a key role in transforming the youth development sector at the national level, notably through the creation of a large movement for civic and political engagement of young people named ‘Hashtag Generation’.”

As Dr Palitha Kohona, former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York wrote in IDN: The 2030 Agenda has correctly identified marketable skills and jobs for youth as a priority. Many of the 17 SDGs and their targets specifically mention the need to develop relevant skills among the youth and adults, including technical and vocational skills, in order to facilitate employment and also entrepreneurship. An educated and skilled workforce is a key factor in attracting investments.

While the situation for all youth remains a challenge, the unfortunate tendency for young women to fall behind even further compared to their male counterparts due to the lack of employable skills and social attitudes has been highlighted frequently. Equipping young women also with employable skills will enhance the economic potential of a country dramatically.

The 2030 Agenda emphasizes, in particular, the need for a good education, good health care and good jobs.

The UN World Youth Skills Day resulted from a proposal made by the then president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, during the UN General Assembly in 2013. Consequently, the UN adopted A/RES/69/145 tabled by Sri Lanka at the 69th session of the General Assembly, on December 18, 2014, dedicating July 15 as the UN Youth Skills Day.

As a means of focusing attention to the issue, Dr. Kohona added, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, established the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and appointed Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan as his first Envoy on Youth.

Jordan moved a resolution in the UN Security Council on youth, peace and security, which it adopted on December 9, 2015. For the first time in the UN’s history the resolution focuses entirely on the role of young men and women in peace-building and countering violent extremism. It regards the youth and youth-led organizations as important partners in the global efforts to thwart violent extremism and promote lasting peace.

The importance of the resolution is also underlined by the fact that 600 million young people are living in fragile and conflict-affected settings and are confronted with the challenge of halting the rise of radicalization and violent extremism, especially among young women and men. The resolution gives a boost to the youth-led peace-building and conflict-prevention interventions to build peaceful communities and underpin democratic, inclusive governance.

Commenting on the adoption of Resolution 2250, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, said: “This is a major breakthrough in our collective efforts to change the predominantly negative narrative on youth and recognize the significant role of young people in peace-building.

“Youth have for too long been cast away as either the perpetrators of violence or its victims. With this resolution, the Security Council recognizes the important contributions that young people make in countering violent extremism and supporting peace-building efforts around the world.”

Alhendawi’s successor is presently working as an officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, Wickramanayake has previously served as Secretary to the Secretary General of the Parliament of Sri Lanka (2016-2017), Project Officer-Youth, One-Text Initiative in Sri Lanka (2015-2016), Member and Youth Lead Negotiator, International Youth Task Force of the World Conference on Youth 2014 (2013-2014) and Official Youth Delegate to the United Nations, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development (2012-2013). She was furthermore a Senator in the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament (2013-2015).

Born in 1990, Wickramanayake is reading for Master of Development Studies, at the University of Colombo and holds a Bachelor degree in Science, from the same university. [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 June 2017]

Photo: Jayathma Wickramanayake. Credit: UN

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate –

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