The National Youth Dialogue (NYD) on Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship is an annual national youth engagement exercise led by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Sri Lanka.
This year too in adapting to the new normal, the National Youth Dialogue for 2020/2021 presented a fully virtual participant experience via Zoom, spanning over five weeks from 16 February-18 March, and included 28 sessions under 10 themes with over 100 speakers and facilitators joining in to share their stories, expertise and experiences with over 2,000 participants.
Together with Youth CO:Lab, the UNDP Asia Pacific program on youth co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation, NYD Sri Lanka is part of a family of National Youth Dialogues held each year in more than 20 countries across Asia and the Pacific region.
Speaking at the virtual closing ceremony, UNDP Sri Lanka Resident Representative Robert Juhkam stated: “Through existing and scaled up platforms for youth, such as the NYD and the HackaDev program, UNDP Sri Lanka remains steadfast in our support to GoSL and other sectors to continue to build an alliance around youth development – create new partnerships and collaborations, and strengthen existing ones which will be the foundation upon which we can collectively invest our efforts and resources to provide an improved service offering. Empowering youth is both a human right based imperative and a needed investment to build forward better.”
The annual event serves as a national platform to foster meaningful youth participation and learning and engages a diverse group of young people across the island to set the agenda for youth policy action on the part of UNDP and its partners. The event also showcases the impact of UNDP Sri Lanka’s umbrella youth program- HackaDev.
Speaking on her experiences as a participant this year, Zahra Taha noted: “This platform helped me identify the access points around me to new knowledge, resources, professional expertise support systems, new technologies and also awareness on crucial topics. I wish to highlight that the online experience that we gained through NYD was extraordinary. The interactive nature of the sessions using many online tools, kept the program lively and interesting.”
The event comprised of thought and action provoking mini dialogues and innovative learning and development offerings, carefully curated for the benefit of youth.
Highlighting the Government’s role in engaging with youth, National Youth Services Council Chairman Theshara Jayasinghe stated: “It is important to focus on how young people can come forward and lead, challenge existing notions and the status quo, and take risks in being innovative and entrepreneurial. This is why I am pleased that UNDP’s National Youth Dialogue, not just in Sri Lanka, but across Asia and the Pacific region, through the Youth Co:Lab program, has a heavy and consistent focus on these three key elements – leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship”.
The National Youth Dialogue tackled two main issues for young people; the post pandemic new normal and the decade of action towards realising the sustainable development goals by the year 2030. Under this, a wide range of thematic areas covered during the dialogue included climate change, peace, gender, community engagement, personal development, arts and sports, digital citizenship, education, skills and employment opportunities.
Speaking of their role as an implementing partner of the project, Citi Sri Lanka Country Officer Ravin Basnayake noted: “We believe youth engagements, such as the National Youth Dialogue helps in fostering learning and the development of future leaders, who can face the development challenges of today. This is why Citi Foundation together with UNDP created the Youth Co:Lab program in the Asia and the Pacific Region and we are very happy about the impact of the program thus far.”
Facilitators comprised of resource personnel from diverse fields including international athletes, global tech giants, private sector leaders, public officials, education reformists, media influencers and peacebuilders. The sessions were made possible through the efforts of over 25 partner and collaborator organisations, including six UN agencies.
Addressing the gathering Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka Eric Falt stated: “As countries around the world consider their post COVID-19 policy options, through your leadership, innovative ideas, and entrepreneurial spirit, we need you to step up and re-engineer the post COVID world to make it more peaceful, just and where no one hopefully is left behind.”
The National Dialogue in Sri Lanka was convened in partnership with Biodiversity Sri Lanka, Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU), Vocational Training Authority (VTA) of Sri Lanka, Citi, Cisco, Centre for Communication Training, WHO Sri Lanka, UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office, UNICEF Sri Lanka, UNFPA Sri Lanka, UNV Sri Lanka, HackaDev, Hashtag Generation, neOOne Associates, Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM), Citra Social Innovation Lab and Facebook.