The Youth Community Leadership Initiative (YCLI), a joint programme of the National Youth Services Council (NYSC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Volunteers (UNV), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, commemorated the International Day of Peace, which is observed annually on September 21. In partnership with MAS Athena, the ‘YCLI Peace Day Celebration’ was held on the MAS Athena grounds in Thulhiriya from September 19-21, 2022, with the involvement of around 500 young people from all over Sri Lanka.
The three-day event featured a range of events for young people, including a special Youth Parliamentary session, a Peace Village, and a Peace Fest, which provided a forum for youth leaders in Sri Lanka to engage in community action aimed at boosting community well-being.
On the first day, officials from all partner organisations gathered to sign the Peace Day promise, reiterating their commitment to ensure that young people are provided with chances to participate in and engage with their communities. The purpose of meaningful youth participation is to foster social cohesion, sustainable development, and community welfare.
Commenting on their function, the Chairman/Director General of NYSC, Brig. Dr. Thiran De Silva, observed, “It is crucial for the growth of Sri Lanka to have active young participation. In acknowledgement of this, the National Youth Services Council has enacted reforms by providing young people a greater voice in decision-making processes and entrusting them with oversight responsibilities as well. We also assist the youth by creating programmes that emphasise linguistic proficiency and technological expertise. We encourage youth to take advantage of all available opportunities for learning and community service.”
The commemorative event is a component of the YCLI project, which promotes peace, justice, and strong institutions while ensuring the integration of health promotion, sustainable development, and volunteer action, thereby empowering young people to act as agents of change for a healthier and safer Sri Lanka.
Dr. Shalala Ahmadova, Public Health Administrator for the World Health Organization in Sri Lanka, observed, “As stated by the Director General of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, ‘There cannot be peace without health and there cannot be health without peace.'” This is represented by the plethora of Global Health for Peace Initiatives (GHPI). By empowering communities, health has played a vital role in fostering social cohesion in Sri Lanka. In such action, young people utilise their skills and talents to build communities through health-related activities. Therefore, it brings me great joy to observe these young people congregating on this International Day of Peace. It gives me hope that the next YCLI Interventions would improve the health and well-being of Sri Lanka’s communities and people.”
At the event, the International Center for Youth, Health, and Peace at MAS Athena was formally inaugurated. The Unit will foster sustainable peace, health, and well-being in communal settings while serving as a public hub for learning and development. This consists of a Virtual Reality Peace Museum, a digital game environment promoting peace, and a knowledge corner with publications, reports, learning materials, networking information, and other resources supporting local initiatives for peace and health promotion.
Mr. Suminda De Silva, CEO of MAS Fabric Park, emphasised the significance of collaboration by stating, “We are honoured to have supported this event commemorating the International Day of Peace. MAS has always recognised the need for a collaborative information hub and has worked relentlessly to provide a platform for individuals to connect with one another in order to foster creativity and increase comprehension. We hope to continue engaging with partners to generate peace and progress in our society through constructive social change.”
The Peace Day celebrations also allowed YCLI participants with the opportunity to employ the knowledge they received throughout the programme to advocate an inclusive, sustainable, and equity-focused national youth policy during the event’s youth legislative debate sessions. In reference to implementing the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda in Sri Lanka, Ms. Malin Herwig, Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, observed, “The youth’s potential for positive action and change is largely untapped. To encourage civic engagement and active citizenship, we must provide youngsters with chances and trainings to participate in their communities in order to foster social cohesion and sustainable development.
Ms. Sharmalee Jayasinghe, Country Coordinator for UNV in Sri Lanka, added, “As the present and future of all nations, youth must be recognised as one of a country’s greatest assets.” Over the years, we have watched how young volunteers have frequently been the first to assist communities at the grassroots level. UNV Sri Lanka will continue to encourage young people through volunteerism as they continue to inspire others to achieve inclusive and peaceful communities.”