Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka, 04 October 2022: The Youth Community Leadership Initiative (YCLI), a joint programme of the National Youth Services Council (NYSC), in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka came together to commemorate the International Day of Peace celebrated on the 21st of September each year. In collaboration with MAS Athena, the ‘YCLI Peace Day Celebration’ took place from the 19-21st September 2022, at the MAS Athena premises in Thulhiriya, with the participation of over 500 young people from across Sri Lanka.
The 3-day event showcased a wide variety of activities for young people, including a special Youth Parliamentary session, a Peace Village and a Peace Fest providing a platform for youth leaders in Sri Lanka to engage in community action towards promoting wellbeing in their communities.
The first day saw representatives from all partner agencies coming together to sign the Peace Day pledge, to reiterate their commitment of ensuring that young people will be given opportunities to participate and engage in their communities. Meaningful youth participation is meant to promote social cohesion, sustainable development and community wellbeing.
Commenting on their role, Chairman/Director General of NYSC Brig. Dr. Thiran De Silva stated, “Having active youth involvement is very important for the development of Sri Lanka. In recognition of this, the National Youth Services Council have made reforms by giving more weight to young people in decision making processes and entrusting them with monitoring as well. We are also supporting the youth by introducing course curricular in terms of language proficiencies and technical competencies. We call out to youth to make use of all opportunities out there to learn and contribute to the community.”
The commemorative event is a part of the YCLI project that promotes peace, justice and strong institutions, whilst ensuring integration of health promotion, sustainable development and volunteer action enabling young people to participate as agents of change to build a healthier and safer Sri Lanka.
Speaking to the overall joint initiative, Dr. Shalala Ahmadova, Public Health Administrator, World Health Organization in Sri Lanka stated, “As signified by the Director General of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, ‘There cannot be health without peace and there cannot be peace without health.’ This is symbolized by the many Global Health for Peace Initiatives (GHPI). In Sri Lanka, health has played a significant role in enabling social cohesion by empowering communities. In such action, young people take centerstage in utilizing their skills and talent to use health related interventions to strengthen communities. So it gives me great pleasure to witness these young people gathering together on this International Day of Peace. It gives me hope that the upcoming YCLI Interventions will promote health and wellbeing, in communities across Sri Lanka and its people.”
The International Center for Youth, Health and Peace hosted at MAS Athena was ceremoniously launched at the event. The Unit will promote sustainable peace, health and wellbeing in communal settings, while acting as a learning and development hub for the general public. This includes a Virtual Reality Peace Museum, a peace promotional digital game space, and a knowledge corner with publications, reports, learning materials, networking details and other resources supporting local initiatives for peace and health promotion.