© UNV Sri Lanka

Young people play an important and positive role in the realisation of sustainable development, in the prevention of crises, and in the advancement of peace. The Secretary-General’s 2021 Our Common Agenda report redoubled the UN’s commitment to include young people not only as beneficiaries, but as full-fledged partners in its work around the world. This approach was also evident in youth-related programming across the UN in Sri Lanka. An example of this work is the U-report, an open-source mobile messaging platform operated by UNICEF with over 25,000 ‘U-Reporters.’ Its purpose is to empower young people to speak out on issues in their communities, encourage citizen-led development, and create positive change. In 2021 the platform was used to assess sentiment about the COVID-19 vaccine among young people and address vaccine hesitancy. Staff from the Heath Promotion Bureau of the Ministry of Health provided young people with information on vaccine effectiveness, addressed common myths related to the virus and vaccines, and explained how they could support the vaccination programme. Similarly, in response to disruptions brought about by the pandemic, UNDP’s flagship Youth Programme HackaDev introduced its e-learning portal, a comprehensive online platform for all skill-building programmes offered by the HackaDev Academy of Learning and Skills. The portal is aimed at providing young people with next-generation abilities, while enabling the youth skills ecosystem to do the same. The first programme to be offered in 2021 was a Social Innovation Camp, a fully virtual exercise in line with COVID-19 guidelines. Spanning six weeks, the modules featured video lessons and interactive, collaborative activities and assessments on design thinking for developing social innovations in the three main languages of Sri Lanka.