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From 1983 - 2009, Sri Lanka endured a brutal civil war where social and economic development came to a halt. Most of the nation's young adults grew up during this war, and many rural youths joined the security forces. In the war's aftermath, Sri Lanka's government was run by authoritarian family rule that failed to understand and address the root causes of the war and the ethnic divide which was propagated by forces that profited from it. Community Development Services believes that some of the youths who grew up with the war have adopted the view that violence, corruption, and nepotism must prevail in society, and they see human rights and good governance as alien subjects far removed from their daily lives. In January 2015 a new government was elected that is finally implementing good governance policies, anti-corruption and anti-nepotism initiatives, as well as constitutional amendments. This project presents an opportunity to engage with youths to make a positive and sustainable change in their lives at a time when their nation is finally finding its way forward after its traumatic recent history.
As Sri Lanka works to heal after its 26-year civil war (ending in 2009), successive post-war governments have failed to understand and address the root cause of the war and the ongoing ethnic divide. This project will raise civic consciousness in Sri Lankan youth by providing training workshops to 500 youth leaders on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Community Development Services aims to inculcate a spirit of social and civic consciousness and awareness among young adults and advocate for change within a participatory, inclusive, democratic and governance framework. The project will train a minimum of 500 youths (aged 16-25) on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its 30 articles. These training workshops will be carried out in Sri Lanka's Western Province, and will cover the district of Colombo, with a focus on Kolonnawa and Maharagama, which are known to be political hot-spots with a diverse mix of ethnic groups. A minimum of 500 young people from the National Youth Services Council will be educated on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its 30 Articles (no school or tertiary education institution in Sri Lanka currently teaches this subject). Specific activities include translating the content for the youth participants, turning the content into training tools and guides, and then delivering 15 workshops for the participants. From this initial group of 500 youths, a sub-set of 50 peer leaders will be identified to lead the project in their own communities. These youths will become the first human rights activists of the National Youth Services Council. Participants will identify relevant youth concerns and social issues that require political advocacy, conduct a baseline survey to discover community needs, develop a series of position papers on these social issues, and address the most pressing issues using informal channels to press their political leaders to take action. These 50 peer leaders will be equipped to teach their peers beyond the original group of 500 about the value and importance of the UDHR through the main tenets of respect, dignity, and responsibility. Over the course of the project, the youths will identify the critical issues they want changed in their lives and in their communities. Community Development Services will collate these responses into a document and present it to the Prime Minister's office as an advocacy tool at the end of the project.