Building social cohesion with youth in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lanka National Youth Dialogue, a five-week event hosted by UNDP,  focusing on leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship, came to an end today. It was meant as a platform for young people to amplify their voices and gather together to discuss pressing issues important to them.

In a peace focused session on the theme ‘Engaging Youth for Social Cohesion’, organized and moderated by UNESCO New Delhi Office and the  UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, young participants dove into the world of peacebuilding. They took on new identities in a made-up simulation and solved challenges in their new community – ‘the Republic of Mawan’.  Issues included climate related migration from a neighboring island, concerns of unemployment among youth, and the spread of hateful narratives on the town’s radio, and how their town could remain resilient.

Young Sri Lankans, playing the roles of teachers, civil society groups, minorities, and government officials identified innovative solutions and structures to prevent their town from escalating into violence. They raised questions of the root causes of unrest, inequalities, and gender roles in their matriarchal society, where women were the main line of ancestors. Participants envisioned a peaceful and tolerant society, where ‘peace connects what hate disconnects’, as they put it.

In a panel discussion on the ‘Decade of Skills and Future of Work’, UNESCO joined speakers from the Sri Lankan government, private sector and multilateral agencies to deliberate on new skills that are needed in a constantly evolving world and workforce.

The discussion identified the need for new, next generation skills for learning and innovation, such as critical thinking, creativity, and a ‘learning how to learn’ attitude that are critical for both young and adult workers to thrive and excel in the future of work.

The role of the private sector was also highlighted as playing an important role as both an employer and collaborator in supporting the country to build a skilled labour force.

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