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The Sacred Vote

We visited a community of Northern Displaced IDPs in Puttlam recently. This was part of our Peace and Governance initiative, an effort to improve cohesion between youth and the entity we call Governance.

We had 3 discussions in course of our visit; the first was with a group of youth, the second with a young provincial council member elected to Jaffna and the last was with a few officials and community representatives from the Community Trust Fund.

Their problems are complex and community discourse has reached a fever pitch with the war ending and the possibilities of relocating to their old homes becoming a reality.

But we found yet another issue that mainly was faced by the youth; young people are facing an inability to act upon their right to vote. Most youngsters who have left the territories before the age of being eligible to vote have not received their voting registration forms yet.

So we got together with a bunch of other young people and wrote a letter to the Elections Commissioner about it. A lot of much more useful work has been done in this regard of course by organizations like CPA and CTF. We heard that the elections commissioner was due to release a circular enabling them to vote during this election, but are yet to find out what came of it.

A casual report on our discussion with the IDP youth can be viewed here.


On Independence

Talking to the YaTV  Sri Lanka-Today programme, BB-ites Dinidu De Alwis and Sachith Vidanapathirana offer their perspectives on the independence day.

The Talk touches on issues such as democracy, economic freedom and individual liberty, development and a whole host of other things. The relevant clips are included below. The full program is available on youtube (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Principles of meaningful youth participation

We were most Impressed with the set of (draft) guidelines put together by the Civil Liberties and Public Policy program on the “Principles of Meaningful Youth Participation”. Working in the sphere of youth-led development both in Sri Lanka and internationally, we have encountered two basic views among young people in their understanding of youth participation in decision and policy-making. Some see this as a collective bargaining tool for special privileges while others see it being a critical part of consultative decision making, leading to a better overall outcome for everyone.

Most at Beyond Borders fall into the later category. At the end of the day, youth participation in policy making isn’t about cheap bus fares, it’s about making better policies or initiatives which actually ‘work’.

We say, if you are designing a policy or a program for women, include women in that process. If you are designing a policy or a program for fisherman, then include fisherman. Likewise if you are taking a decision which affects young people, include youth in that process. It’s not necessarily because young people have a ‘right’ to be included in this, but if for nothing else, it would make your policy or program better. Who else would know better about the situation than people who’s actually living it?

On this, the compilation from the CLPP would be a great asset for anyone working on youth related issues. The following is an excerpt from the official document which can be downloaded here. This is a work in progress, The CLPP invites young people working on these issues to contribute to make these principles more representative.

  1. Meaningful youth participation is essential to ensure that programmes, policies and services sufficiently address the needs of young people

Effective programming must reflect the needs of young people and can only do so through full participation of young people at all levels of program development. Thus, young people must be fully and meaningfully involved at all levels in the planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes, policies and services related to youth issues and aimed at youth. Including young people in meaningful, substantive, decision-making roles in policy development will result in more effective programs, policies and services.

  1. Young people have a valuable contribution to make to society and must be given opportunities for their voices to be heard, recognized, respected and integrated in all policy and decision-making processes

Young people are in the best position to identify, assess and articulate their needs and realities. As such, it is important that young people occupy an equitable seat at decision-making tables to represent their perspectives. In addition, youth voices should be included beyond their capacity for identifying and talking about youth-specific needs, since youth perspectives bring important value to such discussions. It is important for young people’s perspectives to receive equal consideration as those of others.

  1. A commitment to training and building capacities of young people is essential for effective youth participation

Young people generally have less experience in decision-making processes, especially in higher-level decision-making venues. Therefore, it is vital for young people to have access to training and capacity-building opportunities to develop the necessary skills and knowledge for effective participation in decision-making processes. Support from older allies is a key element for these capacity building opportunities.

Youth leadership development programs can be an effective and more beneficial way of creating capacity building opportunities for young people. Such types of programs emphasize developing leadership amongst young people rather than focusing on already accomplished young leaders. This not only provides capacity building opportunities for more young people but also gives space for their participation to be less tokenistic and representative.

  1. Tokenism and consultation are insufficient forms of youth participation.

Inviting young people to observe decision-making processes without conferring equitable decision-making authority is not meaningful youth participation. Tokenism (when young people appear to be given a voice, but have little choice about how they participate and limited or no influence in decision-making) is actually detrimental to meaningful youth participation, as it does not treat young people as equal actors in decision-making processes. Consultation is useful in some contexts, but is not a true form of meaningful youth participation, because young people are only able to advise or consult without influence over the final decision-making process.

Tokenistic participation of young people also creates representation issues, as “youth” becomes a singular identity. For example, inviting one young person to represent all young people does not reflect the diversity that exists amongst youth. Effective youth participation requires recognition on all parts that young people have intersectional identities and possess a range of experience and expertise. These aspects should be integrated in the discourse around effective youth participation and steps must be taken to encourage young people to participate in decision-making not only about youth-specific issues, but also other broader issues.

  1. Youth-led initiatives should be supported

Youth-led initiatives are the most effective at conveying genuine youth perspectives. As such, they should be supported, encouraged and integrated into broader decision-making processes. Strategies should be developed and implemented to strengthen partnerships between youth-led initiatives and youth-focused.

  1. Decision-making processes must be planned with due consideration to young people’s realities

Young people’s realities present certain specific limitation and conditions that might hinder their participation in decision-making processes. For example:

    • Young people often have fewer financial means, which places limitations on their capacity to pay for travel arrangements, materials, equipment, etc.
    • Young people in school have schedules that differ from most full-time employees. To facilitate meaningful youth participation, it is important to organize meetings and events that respect students’ school schedules.
    • Young people sometimes require parental/guardian consent either legally or culturally to participate in initiatives or events. Decision-making bodies should keep this in mind when making arrangements for youth participation
    • For local travel, young people often do not have personal vehicles. Decision-making bodies should therefore schedule meetings in locations that are easily accessible by public transportation or should make travel arrangements for young people
    • For international travel, young people may have a harder time acquiring travel documents, such as passports and visas. Thus, they may require additional support when making logistical and travel arrangements
    • Thus, resources should be made available for youth participation from funders, government and larger civil society organizations
  1. Meaningful youth participation requires a serious commitment by all actors in a decision-making body.

In order to meaningfully integrate young people into decision-making processes in a sustainable manner, decision-making bodies must examine the organizational structure in which they work so as to reduce or eliminate the barriers to meaningful youth participation. This will often require certain changes to the structure or working methods of the decision-making body. All actors must commit to adopting the necessary changes in order to facilitate youth participation.

You may contribute to the document by filling this feedback form and emailing it to lmb04[at]

Youth Participation and Democracy in South Asia

Young people in South Asia and in particular Sri Lanka are disillusioned with both mainstream and alternative spaces for political action says K.Guruparan speaking at the International Conference on Youth and Democracy in South Asia in Pune, India.

Guru was presenting a paper on youth participation in decision making and policy making processes using Sri Lanka as a case study. He goes on to say that there is a need to provide access to institutions and to set in place mechanisms through which youth participation, can be ensured. He warns that such institutions should not be tokenistic as if they are, it would be insufficient to address the feeling of alienation by young people. He goes on to argue the unwillingness to accept the concept of youth participation by the “adult political bureaucratic culture” of south Asian democracies is linked with larger problems of democratization in these countries which has resulted in youth unrest and violence which further slows the process of democratization.

A video excerpt from his speech is now available on YouTube (and included below). The complete paper can be downloaded here.

Conference on Youth and Democracy in South Asia

In conjunction with India’s 60th anniversary of Independence Youth4Change movement attached to the Centre for Youth Development Activities (CYDA) organized a conference for youth and democracy in South Asia. The five day conference held from the 11th – 15th of August in Pune, India saw the participation of delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India.The conference kicked off with a colorful opening celebration welcomed the guests with music, dance and speeches from few distinguished guests including Mohan Dhariya, a freedom fighter in India’s freedom struggle.

The following 4 days consisted of plenary sessions and panel discussions on a range of topics in which young people presented their papers and their views.

The plenary topics included,

“Role of Young parliamentarians in democracy” with the key note address by Ms. Supriya Sule, MP and chaired by Mr. John Samuel of ActionAid international.

“Role of youth in shaping democracies” chaired by Dr. Amitabh Behar of NCAS Pune with the key note address by Mr.Gopi Menon of Unicef.

“Cultures and values shaping democracies” chaired by Mr. Josantony Joseph, with the key note address by prof. Ram Puniyani, IIT, Mumbai.

“Role of Media in democracy” chaired by Prof. Ujjwal Kumar Chowdhury, director, Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication (SIMC) with the key note address by CP Surendran, chief editor for Times of India in Mumbai.

“Youth Policies: situations and challenges in South Asia” key note address by Dr. Rajan Welunkar, Vice Chancellor, Yashwantrao Open University, Nashik.

The panel discussions gave the opportunity for the delegates to present their opinions and papers on several themes which included topics such as Women’s participation in South Asian countries, Globalization and democracy and the role of youth in sustaining democracy.

The conference ended with the freedom concert and the official celebration of India’s 60th year of Independence.

The Sri Lankan delegation consisted of representatives from Beyond Borders, Sri Lanka Youth Parliament and the Lions District of Sri Lanka. [pics]