The inaugural installation of the National Youth Model United Nations (NYMUN) Conference commenced at 8.00AM on the 20th of August 2016. The opening ceremony itself took place with a lot of fanfare with a procession of Kandyan dancers welcoming and leading in the NYMUN officials, Chief Guest and other guests of honor. Following the traditional lighting of the lamp and singing of the National Anthem, Under Secretary General Sanjula Weerawardhena took the podium, capturing the audience with his inspiring and relatable welcome address in which he said, “As the youth, we increasingly identify ourselves as global citizens, by engaging with issues that transcend national boundaries, and by respecting and celebrating our differences. This very fact is the reason the youth of the United Kingdom voted to stay, it is the reason why we care about Omran from Syria, it is why we care about the protracted conflict in Palestine. It is why we care about the Global Goals for sustainable development.”
This was followed up by yet another inspiring speech by Secretary General and Founder of NYMUN 2016, Insaf Bakeer Markar. He told us the story behind NYMUN, and how and why it was started. Being back in Sri Lanka on summer vacation he had a few months of free time on hand. Not wanting to just get a summer job like most college students do, he decided to invest his time in something closer to his heart; Model United Nations.
As every other MUN platform in Sri Lanka focuses on school students, many young adults do not get a chance to partake in these debates, despite the fact that the older you get, the more well-rounded your ideas and opinions are. Insaf’s idea was to create an MUN platform open to teenagers and young adults – veteran MUN-ers and newbies alike. His goal was to encourage young people to further their passions of debate and public speaking, in the same way his very first MUN conference encouraged him to recognise and speak out about his passion for human rights.
Together with his friend Sulaiman Rameez, he slowly nurtured this grain of an idea, and before long, they were on the road to the inaugural National Model United Nations Conference in Sri Lanka.
To Insaf, MUN means “compromise, sacrifice and setting aside personal goals for the common greater good” all of which he aims to promote and nurture during this conference and the ones to come. He went on to emphasize that these conferences support and encourage dialogue and diplomacy among youth from across the island, both of which are important tools for the future of Sri Lanka.
Of the many motivational points in this speech, one important thing to take away would be to never let an idea die; no matter how small or how insignificant you think it is. Bigger dreams often spawn from small ideas.
This speech was followed by the induction of the Executive Committee 2016 by the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General and then, it was time for a speech by the Chief Guest, Hon. Minister of Higher Education Mohan Lal Grero. His speech revolved around the importance of youth unity in a diverse society, and how MUN bridges the gap between races and ethnicities, bring together the youth of Sri Lanka as one single united front. He stressed that we the youth must “discuss, analyze, empathize and compromise” in order to find a common ground that we can all stand on.
The Guest of Honor, Hon. Minister of State Enterprise Development Eran Wickramaratne, took the podium next with yet another motivational, and rather inspiring speech. His words were simple, but powerful. “It does not matter what others say; never give up on your dreams.” This quote in itself carried the weight and most important message in his speech, especially as the majority of the audience was made up of youth from all over Sri Lanka. We are at a point where youth empowerment is at its pinnacle with youth-run events and organizations cropping up everywhere proving more each day that if you can dream it, you can do it. NYMUN started as a seedling of an idea, but today it is the first fully youth-run MUN conference in Sri Lanka. If that isn’t youth empowerment, I don’t know what is.
Finally, to round things off nicely, Shevinu Athulathmudali took the podium with a vote of thanks to all guests present, following which the delegates were escorted to their relevant committees for the first day of conference.