The 1,500 seat Magam Ruhunupura lntemational Conference Center (MRICC) was awash with color as youth from nearly 169 countries gathered to launch an event during which they would deliberate progress on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and share ideas,experiences and innovative approaches to effectively contribute to the post-2015 development agenda and its implementation. The theme of this year's Conference is “Mainstreaming Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”
As they arrived, many delegates were seen capturing the colorful scenes at MRICC. Stilt walkers from Walasmulla in the Hambantota District joined Kandyan drummers and Tamil Nadaswaram players in greeting the delegates as they arrived.
The chief guest at the ceremony, Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, addressing the gathering, said that there would be around three billion young people in the world by 2015.
“It is imperative that a gobal strategy is developed to mainstream youth focus and ensure their participation in existing and future development programs, at the national, regional and global levels,” President Rajapaksa said.
He expressed confidence that this Worid Conference on Youth will provide an inspirational platform for such deliberations.
Speaking about youth engagement in Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa said, “We continue to integrate youth into our national policymaking and implementation mechanisms, through our network of more than 10,000 village-level youth-led organizations and the Sri Lanka Youth Parliament. Youth parliamentarians also consult and engage with policymakers and national parlianentarians, inducing civil society, to contribute policy inputs. This has also provided an important opportunity in post-conflict Sri Lanka to foster ideals of peace, tolerance and harmony among the country's younger generation.”
The launch of the official theme song of the Conference, performed by several popular Sri Lankan artists led by the duo Bathiya and Santhush, had the audience on their feet dancing and youth delegates swamiing the stage.
In a special message to the Conference, delivered by the U.N. Secretary-GeneraI’s Envoy on Youth Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, Mr. Ban Ki-moon thanked the Sri Lankan Government for hosting the gathering and commended all who worked hard to organize it.
Echoing the serious nature of the Conference, the Secretary-General said, “I am delighted that you have collected ideas for the 2015 agenda. This is a critical time. We are working closely with member states, civil society, academia, the media, private sector and people like you - the next generation's global leaders or as you call it, the core leaders of today to develop a blueprint for the people and planet for the future you want.”
As Sri Lanka’s traditional masked dancers took the stage, many delegates donned the masks provided by the organizers and joined in the dancing as the event took on a party atmosphere.