INTERVIEW: Meet the new UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake
11 August 2017 – http://www.un.org/apps/news/st...D=57344#.WY4bK1GQyM8
11 August 2017 – Hailing from Sri Lanka, the second-ever United Nations Youth Envoy is no stranger to rolling up her sleeves to get things done.
Before taking on her role as UN Youth Envoy, 26-year-old Jayathma Wickramanayake worked diligently in her mother country to transform the youth development sector. From 2013 to 2015, she served as a Senator at the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament and from 2016 to 2017 as Secretary to the Secretary-General of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
Now working at the UN, her dedication to including youth globally comes out in force as she vows to do everything in her capacity to strive towards making the UN an inclusive system in which all youth is welcomed.
Speaking to UN News, she stressed that as Youth Envoy, she wants to ensure that all youth have a home at the United Nations.
UN News: Can you elaborate on your role as UN Youth Envoy?
JW: Since my school days, I have been very active in community work – volunteering both in and outside of school. When I entered university, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Youth Affairs organized the first-ever competition to select emerging young leaders in the country. I became the runner up.
I was then invited by the Youth Ministry and the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka to contribute to different programmes and policies being drafted at that time, such as the National Youth Policy of Sri Lanka, the Youth Employment Action Plan and the World Health Organization’s Noncommunicable Disease Prevention Progamme.
Little by little I became introduced to the UN, including by becoming part of the UN Volunteer force.
In 2012, when Sri Lanka started the Youth Delegate Programme, I was selected as one of my country’s first Youth Delegates to participate in the UN’s 69th General Assembly.
Jayathma Wickramanayake speaking at the National Youth Council of Sri Lanka. Credit: Media Unit, National Youth Council of Sri Lanka.
In preparation, I travelled around Sri Lanka for a month, speaking with different young people from a variety of communities to formulate a statement on the issues they wanted the UN to hear, which I subsequently delivered to the Third Committee [Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee].
As I was finishing my tenure as Youth Delegate in 2013, Sri Lanka was preparing to host the 2014 World Youth Conference, for which I was appointed to the International Youth Task Force that advised on its programme, proceedings, agenda, and declaration.
At that time, 74 million youth globally were unemployed and there was a huge gap in terms of school-to-work transition, which underscored a need for skills development.
For about one year and a half I worked on the Conference with a team of energetic young people from 10 parts of the world, including 10 Sri Lankans.
I then worked closely with the UN and the Sri Lankan government to adopt the resolution to declare World Skills Day.
Back in Sri Lanka, I started a grass roots youth organization with other Sri Lankan former UN Youth Delegates called Hashtag Generation to build the capacity of young people to participate in politics.