More than 50 young parliamentarians from Asia-Pacific countries gathered in Sri Lanka today to discuss their role in advancing inclusive and peaceful societies and preventing violent extremism in the region.
In recent years, the world has witnessed new waves of violent extremism that have threatened the security and stability of societies across the world. This is a growing concern for the security of the Asia-Pacific region.
Parliaments are among the key institutions that can play an effective role in preventing violent extremism (PVE). In addition to ratifying and facilitating implementation of international conventions and resolutions, parliaments also deliberate on and adopt laws that provide the framework for national policies. Young parliamentarians, as representatives closest to a country’s youth, have a particularly crucial role to play.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Parliament of Sri Lanka, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have jointly convened a Regional Meeting of Young Parliamentarians of the Asia-Pacific region to engage on PVE. Taking place on 25 and 26 April, the meeting brings together young parliamentarians, specialists, private sector representatives and youth advocates to promote youth participation in parliaments.
During the two days, young MPs will collaborate with global experts and key civil society actors in developing strategies that engage their peers on the role parliaments and political participation can play in addressing violent extremism.
The opening session was attended by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Saber Chowdhury and UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Sri Lanka Ms. Una McCauley.
In his opening speech, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, stated, “The theme of this meeting is the most relevant and opportune topic to be discussed at any forum in the context of the violence and mayhem that is being unleashed each day in all parts of the world. Violent extremism is nurtured by many underlying causes such as the lack of economic opportunity, education, the alienation of youth and discrimination on ethnic, religious and political grounds among others.”
“Empowered youth are the engine of the progress we all seek. Through our work, we are continuously reminded that young people today are more connected, more creative, more informed and more persuasive than any previous generation. They must be included in any holistic approach that seeks to prevent violent extremism,” said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Sri Lanka, Una McCauley.
According to UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Regional Human Development Report published last year, more than half of the world’s young people today live in Asia, and over a billion people in the region are below the age of 25.
Young Asians, however, see few opportunities to participate in political institutions, including parliaments.
“Young people must be firmly part of formal political processes to effectively contribute to preventing violent extremism. Increasing youth participation in parliaments and the number of young MPs is both a way to harness the talents of youth to address extremism and its socio-economic drivers, and also an antidote to combat youth marginalization that leads to radicalisation,” said IPU President Saber Chowdhury.
The IPU report on Youth participation in national parliaments 2016, revealed that roughly one per cent of parliamentarians in the region were under 30 years of age. Globally, less than two per cent of the world’s parliamentarians are aged below 30.
The UN’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, adopted in December 2015, acknowledges that “we will not be successful unless we can harness the idealism, creativity and energy of young people and others who feel disenfranchised”. (Colombo Gazette)