The Youth Forum on Climate Change (YFCC), organized by SLYCAN Trust in collaboration with the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment under the Sri Lanka Next Conference was held on the 17th of October 2017 at BMICH. Dr. Sunimal Jayathunge, Director, Climate Change Secretariat opened the forum, recognizing the importance of youth as a key stakeholder that needs to actively engage in developing policies related to climate change. He pointed out that, on a national level, the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment has taken into account the importance of engaging youth in the work related to climate change and thereby has provided space for youth to share their knowledge and experience, raise their concerns and assist in the implementation of projects to address climate change through events such as YFCC.
Addressing capacity building needs, YFCC consisted of four sessions on the areas of Climate Advocacy and Policy Development, Climate Change Research, Communication and Awareness Creation and Ground-level action conducted by experts on the field followed by group discussions that involved the participants to come up with a project proposal under the guidance of expert mentorship.
The first session of the YFCC on “Climate Advocacy and Policy Development” was conducted by Mr. Sandun Thudugala, Programme Director Law & Society Trust, and Ms. Vositha Wijenayake, Executive Director, SLYCAN Trust. Mr. Thudugala and Ms. Wijenayake briefed the audience as to what advocacy is and emphasized on the need for youth to voice their issues and the issues of the voiceless in order to bring about change in society. The participants were educated as to how they can influence decisions made by policy makers and how social media can be used as a platform for advocacy.
Mr. Kumar Lopez, CEO of Sri Lanka Press Institute build on the use of social media for communication purposes under the session on “Communication and Awareness Creation”. Providing statistics to the audience on the channels of communication trusted by the general public, Mr. Lopez mentioned that social media was not considered an authentic medium of communication. “Trust is the key for good communication”, stated Mr. Lopez further stating that in order to communicate effectively messages need to be personalized and that the “less you say the more you’d be heard”.
Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara, General Manager of Marine Environment Protection Authority, Mr. Sumudu Silva, Programme Associate of UNDP and Mr. Arjuna Senevirathne, Director of Strategic Enterprise Management Agency presented on Climate Change Research underscoring the importance of research for policy decisions made in terms of climate change. Mr. Senevirathne emphasized on the need for researchers and activists to work closely with technocrats.
Opening the floor for an interactive session, Mr. Sandun Thudugala, questioned the participants on the ground level actions that they are currently involved in towards addressing climate change issues. As most participants were Undergraduates, they believed that their final year researches could add value to policy procedures. Mr. Thudugala urged the audience to make use of such researches by bringing them to the attention of relevant authorities to be utilized for policy decisions.
The group discussions that involved the participants on developing project proposals in the areas of Forestry, Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Marine & Coastal, Agriculture and Food security, Industry, Energy and Transport as well as Sustainable lifestyles were conducted under the mentorship of the above experts. With the guidance of these mentors, the groups were able to present their project proposals to the audience in the presence of the Secretary to the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, Mr. Anura Dissanayake. SLYCAN Trust stated its interest in taking up the feasible projects on board while Dr. Jayathunga and Mr. Dissanayake provided their support in linking the participants up with ongoing projects with relevance to the proposed projects.