Youth Co:Lab National Youth Dialogue 2023

Remarks for the Resident Coordinator a.i., UN in Sri Lanka and Resident Representative, UNDP Sri Lanka

August 13, 2023
UNDP RR addressing the gathering

Ms. Azusa Kubota, Resident Coordinator a.i. UN Sri Lanka/ Resident Representative, UNDP Sri Lanka addressing the gathering

UNDP Sri Lanka

Check against delivery


Good afternoon, and a Happy International Youth Day to all of you!

Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs – Hon. Roshan Ranasinghe; 

Mr Kanapathipillai Mahesan, Secretary to the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs; 

Mr Pasindu Gunaratne, Chairman and Director General, National Youth Services Council; 

Mr Ruwan Wijewardene, Senior Advisor to the President on Climate Change. 

Youths of Sri Lanka and colleagues and friends

A warm welcome to the National Youth Dialogue, facilitated by UNDP’s Youth Co-lab, on the occasion of International Youth Day 2023.

We in the United Nations Development Programme are delighted to realize this programme together with the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, the National Youth Services Council and the youth of Sri Lanka.

Today’s event symbolizes our strengthened partnership with the Ministry and NYSC in creating a meaningful platform for young people to engage and prosper. 

The National Youth Dialogue, for UNDP Sri Lanka, has been one of such existing platforms organized every year to trigger action to ensure meaningful engagement of youth. Over the years, they have given the space to young people to share their experiences and perspectives with decision makers. Therefore, the presence of esteemed government representatives today is an integral part of the programme.

As you may know, the National Youth Dialogue is supported by the Youth Co: Lab programme, a project implemented by UNDP in the Asia and Pacific Region, in partnership with the Citi Foundation. Sri Lanka is part of this dynamic regional movement and therefore, the dialogues are held each year along with other countries in the region. 

In Sri Lanka, the Youth Co-lab has created a substantial community of young innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders, and it continues to unlock exciting new partnerships to create better outcomes. We are very thankful to our partners, Citi and the Citi Foundation for their commitment to youths around the region and our shared vision to optimize the possibilities for young people.

This year’s theme for the International Youth Day is “Green Skills for Youth: For a sustainable tomorrow” and we have gathered today to debate what this means for Sri Lanka and its youths. 

Nowadays we hear a lot about “green and sustainability”. Why is that so?

The way we live today is no longer sustainable – for our planet and for our own existence. In 2021, UNDP published its Human Development Report which said that we, the humans, are entering into the era of Anthropocene. Like many species before us have perished due to biodiversity loss and climate change, we are threatening our own existence through unstainable practices. 

The global community, including Sri Lanka, is grappling with multiple cascading and interlinked crises. The covid pandemic, prolonged war in Ukraine, rising fuel and food prices, climate change – to name a few – they have all contributed to the loss of gains we have made towards achieving the Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Deveopment Goals. We believe additional 100 million people have fallen into poverty since the pandemic. 

We are critically off track on the promise of the SDGs, and only likely to achieve 20% of what we have aspired.

When it comes to protecting our planet and promoting sustainability, we have in fact regressed in our progress of reducing greenhouse gas emissions under Goal 13. In Goal 7 on Energy, and in Goal 12 on Responsible consumption we are seeing limited or no progress, in areas such as energy efficiency, reducing inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies, and reducing material consumption.

Calling the climate crisis, the ‘code red’ warning for humanity, the United Nations SDG Report 2022 further highlighted issues such as a growing unsustainable reliance on natural resources, record breaking temperatures and frequent extreme weather, rebound of fossil fuel usage, insufficient climate financing. In fact, the month of July recorded the hottest temperatures in history and forest fires and heatwaves across countries. We are no longer talking about global warming – but global boiling. The plant is becoming uninhabitable. 

One month from now, the world leaders are meeting at the United Nations at the historic Summit on the SDGs, to re-energize our collective commitment to achieving SDGs. 

The attainment of SDGs requires the whole of the society effort. Everyone has a role to play. So, the time is now, to fully embrace the green and sustainable transition and transformation. 

Climate change is intimidating, but it can also provide opportunities. With the accelerated efforts on renewable energy transition and greening of industries, demands for green jobs and skills are growing. According to the LinkedIn Green Skills Report for 20231, the demand for workers with green skills will soon surpass the supply, and the current pace of transitions into green and greening jobs is too slow. Not enough workers are hired into green jobs. Although it is increasing, green and greening jobs still only accounted for 10% of hiring in 2021. Adding to the woes, not enough workers are transitioning to green jobs either.

From my many travels across the country, I have met with several young people who have shared their passion while highlighting the current challenges, especially on prospects for employment, that they face. Students who are studying technology told me that they feel the skills taught in the university do not equip them to be job ready. There needs to be a better matching of skill sets and the needs of the hour, which are changing very fast due to advancement of technology. 

This is where the global theme of this year’s International Youth Day comes into the picture; “Green Skills for Youth: Towards A Sustainable World". 

In the lead up to this event, in partnership with the National Youth Services Council, we asked young people about green skills and what it meant to them, to generate some insights that could inform policy making and programme design. 

Out of 3000 responses, 41.3% are very concerned about the climate crisis, while the majority - 63.6% of respondents are only moderately or less concerned about it. But nearly half of respondents said, you want to contribute but don’t know how to do so exactly. This calls for a platform and opportunities for young people to apply their skills and passion to be part of the solution. 

From UNDP, through one of our flagship offerings on young people – the HackaDev programme; we have recognised the need for building green skills for young people. We have also acknowledged your enthusiasm in acting for a greener Sri Lanka, where we observed more and more of you coming up with social innovations and enterprise ideas in the domain of green development. So, we continue to provide different platforms for you to engage meaningfully. 

I look forward to the Green Talents segment later today, where we will get to hear about a few inspirational stories from you and later interactive dialogue on Growing Green Talents. I hope the representatives from the government will reflect on the insights and recommendations to inform policy and programme design of the national government. 

Within all this, UNDP Sri Lanka remains steadfast in our support to the Government of Sri Lanka and its people, especially the young people, to invest in green skills, create new partnerships and collaborations, and upscale collective investments so that the youth of Sri Lanka are equipped with relevant skills sets to be part of the solution. 

In the post Pandemic and crisis era, Sri Lanka is well positioned to decisively pursue a socio-economic recovery pathway that is green and inclusive.

I know you have come today because you want to be part of this journey. So, my invitation is to all of you, to engage proactively today, and let us continue to together to build a nation where young people with green skills can flourish and contribute to the greening of our society, country and the planet. 

In return, I promise to you that UNDP in Sri Lanka will continue to work closely with our partners in areas such as renewable energy transition, e-mobility – you might have seen E-tuktuks, smart agriculture, and waste-to-energy management.  We will continue to support strategics to raise finance for energy transition and climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions for the country.

In all of this, young people will always remain at the heart of our partnership. And we look up to you for your leadership, inspiration and innovation. 

Happy International Youth Day once again.