Starting Point

Youth of Sri Lanka play prime role in National Human Development Report of 2014

For Sri Lanka, the National Human Development Report of 2014 could not have come at a better time. The year 2014 has brought to the limelight the youth of Sri Lanka, and has been referred to as the ‘Year of the Youth’. As the nation launched its first National Youth Policy and hosted the World Conference on Youth during the year, the NHDR of 2014 examines the pivotal role of Sri Lankan youth in the wake of the 21st century.

Titled “Youth and Development: Towards a More Inclusive Future”, the 136-page report explores the opportunities and challenges faced by the youth on the basis of five themes: education, employment, health, civic and political participation and post-war reconciliation and social integration.

The themes around which the report is centered are well-chosen to reflect the problems that the youth of Sri Lanka face in their day-to-day life. Since most national data are not disaggregated for youth, and do not cover areas such as social integration and civic and political participation, each theme has been dealt with using research methods such as focus group discussions and representative sample surveys, giving a representative portrayal of the status of the youth in Sri Lanka.

It is hoped that the data collected will contribute to extensive policy discourse and be helpful to governmental and non-governmental actors for decision-making purposes.

The report is rich with detailed statistics and research findings which support the problems that youth face in relation to the themes. The report then highlights the important role of youth, in realizing the aspirations of Sri Lanka. Several recommendations and suggestions as to the way forward accompany the problems highlighted; however the report is quick to point out that there are no clear cut answers to complex problems, as there are challenges in transforming policies into action.

Deputy Country Director Lovita Ramguttee speaks about the usefulness of the NHDR of 2014, especially in relation to themes such as civic and political participation and social integration. “NHDR 2014 recommends that better awareness and access is needed to break barriers for youth to positively take part in civic and political activities. We want to make sure that, working with our partners, young people are given a space and an enabling environment to be better informed and take part in meaningful dialogue.”

Sonali Dayaratne, in her capacity as task manager for the report, points out that in the preparation of the report, several startling observations were made.

“Individuals are connected to social, political, economic structures but there is little they can do by themselves. Sri Lankan youth have immense potential and this makes their participation in decision making and their role in the community important.” she remarks.

In addition, she says there are enough policies and action plans, but less can be said about making them work. “What we hope to achieve by this report is to create awareness about the importance of youth in the development process, to increase their participation in civic, political and reconciliation processes and to give opportunities to the youth in finding solutions. However this cannot be achieved unless there is awareness that there needs to be commitment to implement youth policies,” says Sonali.

Even though much remains to be done, the NHDR 2014 hopes to inform Sri Lankan youth as to how to unleash their strengths and capabilities, and create a better policy environment for their welfare.


Author: Nabeela Raji

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