Shanali Abeysinghe Represents Sri Lanka On The World Stage At The 17th International Human Rights Summit In New York City

Shakila Ifham

September 19, 2023


Shanali Abeysinghe, represented Sri Lanka as a Youth Delegate at the 17thInternational Human Rights Summit held at United Nations headquarters in New York. Shanali has actively promoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Sri Lanka and advocated for equality and peace through several educational programmes of Youth for Human Rights International. 

The theme of this year’s Summit, in the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Right, (UDHR), was IMAGINE: EQUALITY. DIGNITY. UNITY—Youth Making it a Reality.Shanali’s contribution was themed as ‘The power of youth in changing the world for the better’.

 “With the support of Road to Rights Organization- Sri Lanka, I’m planning to educate youth about the importance of freedom of expression and create a stage that highlights the importance of the rights by focusing schools, universities and work places” says Shanali. “Also, we would like to collaborate with many organizations in Sri Lanka to organize events, create educational materials, and advocate for changes to the law that would protect and promote human rights” she added.

The Summit was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Timor-Leste to the UN and Cosponsored by the Permanent Missions of Ireland, Albania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was held at the UN Economic and Social Council Chamber, providing youth and senior delegates from more than 45 nations the opportunity to meet and be mentored by international human rights icons. 

In a video presentation recorded for the Summit, Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate for 1996, welcomed the youth and senior delegates: “The hope that is represented by UDHR never dies,” he said. “It is always carried forward by the young…With your actions today you are making the world you will live in a better place. The UDHR maps the road to a better world. Thank you for continuing to carry that torch and build a road to the ideals we share.”

More than 400 officials, ambassadors and representatives of UN permanent missions, representatives of NGOs, educators, human rights advocates and members of civil society, attended the two-day conference with viewers watching online across the globe through the UN website.        

One focus of the Summit was education and the role of universities and governments in ensuring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is taught to peoples of all ages. Panelists discussed the importance of educational institutions advocating human rights education. 

Human Rights Consortium School of Advanced Study University of London, Faculty of Law of Khon Kaen University Thailand, Leuphana University Luneburg Germany, Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University Australia; Faculty of Law and Criminology, Vrije Universiteit Brussels and Humboldt International University, Florida were among the universities that demonstrated their utmost support at the summit. 

In closing this three-day program, Dr. Mary Shuttleworth, president of Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), conveyed her deepest respect for the young men and women who represented their countries to the Summit: “Your hard work is making all our dreams come true.”       

Youth Delegates in New York distributed Youth for Human Rights booklets, read 30 rights, and gathered in Times Square for a petition demanding human rights education where they collected signatures on a giant 12-foot petition to mandate human rights education in schools.