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Sri Lanka: The key role of young people in building peace and sustainable development

MD Staff

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Involvement of all sections of the society, in particular its young people, in bottom-up peace building approaches is vital to ensure sustainable social justice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a youth event in Sri Lanka. “Why should young people be sent off to fight wars, but be prevented from building peace?” Mr. Ban said in his remarks at the event, which had the theme of “Reconciliation and Coexistence: Role of Youth.’

He added that the exclusion of young people from peacebuilding and reconciliation processes is “one of the most serious injustices” and that it has to be corrected.

The Secretary-General flagged that youth played a critical role in designing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was agreed and adopted by world leaders last year, along with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the latter serving as a global plan for people, peace, prosperity and the planet.

“Many of the Goals focus on priority areas for young people: quality education, empowering women and girls, and ensuring decent work for all,” said Mr. Ban, calling on the young people “to lead the way.”

Referring to Sri Lanka as a major contributor to the youth agenda globally – such as with its hosting of the 2014 World Conference on Youth – the UN chief highlighted that, at the national level, it is important to continue to increase investment in the young women and men who make up one fifth of the country’s population.

“You are your country’s biggest asset. Sri Lanka’s future success depends on you,” he said.

Noting that many young people in the country were born and lived the early stages of their lives during conflict, terror and displacement and have had to suffer deprivations and injustice, Mr. Ban underscored that involvement in peacebuilding, reconciliation and post-conflict transformation provides an opportunity to emerge from trauma and play a part in creating a better future.

He introduced Thevuni Kavindi, whom he recently appointed to his Advisory Group on Youth, Peace and Security on International Youth Day this year, to the audience. He said that Ms. Kavindi, a 23-year-old Sri Lankan, is playing a leading role in the country’s youth movement which is working to unite young people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds across the country to promote reconciliation and lasting peace.

Asking them to take inspiration from Ms. Kavindi, the Secretary-General urged the country’s young people to “continue to prove that Sri Lanka is emerging from decades of adversity, suspicion and divisiveness. Please lead the way towards rebuilding, reconciliation and an appreciation of diversity in unity,” he concluded.

Earlier on Thursday, the UN chief met with the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, to whom he pledged his continued support for Sri Lanka’s reform agenda, including for the reconciliation, transitional justice and peacebuilding processes.

“He expressed hope for increased momentum in these important areas. He also endorsed the comprehensive Peacebuilding Priority Plan,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a readout of the meeting.

He added that the Secretary-General was encouraged by President Sirisena’s leadership and commitment to stay the course and fulfil the aspirations of the Sri Lankan people in bringing lasting peace and prosperity for all. He also commended the Sri Lankan leader for his leadership on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and climate change, and welcomed the government’s initiatives to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals into the national development framework.

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UN launches global plan to strengthen protection of internally displaced persons

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With multiple crises forcing millions of people away from their homes, United Nations agencies, Governments and partners have launched a set of measures to strengthen protection of internally displaced persons as well as find solutions to address their problems.

“Addressing the protection needs of the forcibly displaced and seeking solutions to their plight contribute to greater stability for countries and whole regions,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in a news release announcing the three-year Plan of Action.

The consequences of our failure to resolve internal displacement can be devastating,” he stressed.

The framework, formally called the Plan of Action for Advancing Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced People (2018-2020), calls on all relevant actors to step up efforts to prevent, respond to and resolve internal displacement.

It also proposes concrete activities to strengthen the participation of internally displaced persons in decisions concerning them, and expand national laws and policies on internal displacement as well as actions to improve data collection and analysis on displacements globally.

By the end of 2016, more than 40 million people were displaced within their own countries due to insecurity or rights violations. An additional 24 million were driven from their homes due to disasters. Every year, an estimated 15 million people are also displaced by development projects.

Bold and ambitious steps needed

Given this complex conundrum, “bold and ambitious” steps are needed, underscored Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

“The Plan of Action seeks to galvanize a strategic dialogue, concerted action and adequate resources to address the plight of the internally displaced, while engaging them in the decisions that affect them,” added the independent expert.

In the same vein, Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs committed that the Organization will continue to work with affected Governments and displaced persons to ensure that their needs are addressed.

Leave no one behind

“The international community has pledged to leave no one behind,” stressed Mr. Lowcock, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noting that this promise must extend to all those displaced.

The Plan of Action was drafted under the leadership of the Special Rapporteur, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Its launch coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, widely accepted as being the global standard for protecting and assisting internally displaced people.

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UN Environment designates Chinese idol Wang Junkai as National Goodwill Ambassador

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Singer and Actor Wang Junkai, or Karry Wang, best known for his leading role in the box office blockbuster film Miracles of the Namiya General Store and the hit single “KarryOn” was designated as UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador today in a ceremony in Beijing.

In his role as goodwill ambassador, Wang will connect with China’s youth on some of the most urgent
environment issues of their generation, including pollution, air quality, wildlife protection, ecosystems, and more.

As a young actor and singer, I greatly appreciate UN Environment giving me this opportunity to be National Goodwill Ambassador. We youth have the responsibility to protect our environment and secure our future, and I am looking forward to learn from and work with the UN family on key environmental issues. Youth are no longer merely onlookers when it comes to environmental action, nor should they be. I will spare no effort to do everything I can to take care of our earth, and I invite everyone to join me in generating a wave of positive action.

It’s inspiring to hear a strong and determined voice of Chinese youth on environmental issues. When young people set their mind to change, incredible things can be accomplished,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We’re very excited to work with Wang Junkai to create even more awareness about environmental issues and, more importantly, the solutions to these challenges.”

The 18-year old performer is a superstar of the highest ranks in Asia. Known for his leading role in the film Namiya General Store, top roles in various TV series – among which “Finding Soul” and “Qingyun Zhi “ – and solo music career, he has amassed more than 40 million followers on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Both in China and the rest of South-East Asia, Wang has been one of the leaders of the online conversation on the environment.

In 2016, Wang widely shared the #wildforlife Campaign, reaching 400 million viewers. A year later, he publicly spoke out on the urgent need to protect endangered wildlife, naming them the “superstars of the planet.”

Beyond drawing attention to wildlife, he called upon his followers to pledge to reduce their e-waste, with the hashtag #beatpollution. Within 24 hours, his post was retweeted by 1.67 million times and more than 400,000 followers signed the pledges.

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New Solar Project to Restore Electricity to Over One Million Yemenis

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The World Bank announced today a new project to finance off-grid solar systems in Yemen to power vital basic services, and improve access to electricity for vulnerable Yemenis in rural and outlying urban areas.

Funded by a US$50 million grant from IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, the new project will rely on the commercial solar market, which has grown despite the conflict, providing further support to the local economy and creating jobs.

Solar power has proved to be the most immediate solution for severe energy shortages in Yemen. A booming solar industry has developed driven by the private sector, but the costs have put the technology beyond the reach of public facilities and the most vulnerable populations.

The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project will work with the current solar supply chain and the existing network of microfinance institutions, to finance and deliver off-grid solar systems to rural and peri-urban areas. The aim is to restore or improve access to electricity to 1.4 million people, around half of them women. The project will also fund solar power for critical infrastructure, such hospitals, schools, water corporations, and rural electricity providers.

The lack of electricity in Yemen has had a devastating impact on Yemenis and the provision of services,” said Dr. Asad Alam, World Bank Group Country Director for Yemen, Egypt, and Djibouti. “While responding to immediate need, the project will contribute to building a more inclusive and sustainable solar market in Yemen through targeted financing to the private sector which will expand its reach to the poor and vulnerable.

The project will be implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and in collaboration with the local private sector, including Micro Finance Institutions, solar equipment suppliers and technicians. Working with the Yemeni private sector will help create hundreds of jobs.

Investing in solar will make Yemen’s electricity more resilient, reduce the dependence on fuels for critical service facilities, and create jobs in the private sector,” said Joern Torsten Huenteler, World Bank Energy Specialist and Task Team Leader of the project, “What Yemenis need today more than ever is a quick and innovative energy solutions to help ease the crisis.

With this new financing, IDA emergency grants to Yemen issued since July 2016 have totaled US$1.183 billion.

These projects have been prepared – and are being implemented – in partnership with Yemeni institutions and UN organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.

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