I have to admit my knowledge about the country was fairly limited before I was accepted to attend this conference.
What I have seen is a very proud and patriotic country. Kind of reminded me of home, but is also very unique in it's own ways.
There is a big enough Indian community in NZ to know Sri Lanka is quite different. Pictures of their much loved President splashed in just about every free corner you can find. Not once have I come across one sour faced Sri Lankan. They all appear to be genuinely happy and very friendly people and have gone out of their way to make us delegates feel extra special ..... and extra welcome.
Everywhere we go we are accompanied by a police escort, partially because the traffic here in Colombo is crazy, but it's also an extension of their warm hospitality. They have stopped at nothing to make sure we are safe and happy. I kind of get the feeling that being happy is the national motto for Sri Lanka.
The Opening Ceremony was splendid, filled with so much life, colour and beautiful insights into Sri Lankan culture. The venue for the ceremony, the Magampura Ruhunupura International Convention Centre is approximately 3 hours away from our hotel, but well worth the wait.
The multimillion dollar complex put on the best of the best to welcome the worlds international youth delegates formally to Sri Lanka and with Sri Lanka's much beloved President Mahinda Rajapaksa, officially declared the conference open. I felt like royalty walking up the aisle past 100's of young Sri Lankan's dressed in their nation's best to welcome us (see photos)
Just as admirable as the opening ceremony is Sri Lanka's genuine commitment to advancing the lives of it's young people, ensuring that young people are part and parcel of decision making processes within the country.
With such a wonderful start I am looking forward to the rest of the conference. There are several key themes and foundations being addressed at this conference, more information here. I am participating under the foundation of empowering margenalised youth including most at risk young people, and in the theme of Environmental Protection, Emergency Preparedness and Youth Centered Urbanisation, two things I am particularly passionate about.
Will keep blogging over the next few days to let people know how the discussions go. The objective is by the end of the conference, that we are able to develop our contribution for 'youth in the post-development agenda', for the United Nations and international community to consider.