A Colorado School of Mines graduate student was among the young leaders from around the world who gathered at United Nations headquarters in New York last month to discuss the role of youth in building sustainable and resilient urban and rural communities.
Sajith Wijesuriya, a fourth-year mechanical engineering PhD student, co-moderated one of the breakout sessions at the 2018 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, reporting back the takeaways to the main conference following the breakout discussion.
Wijesuriya, whose work at Mines focuses on thermal energy storage and peak electricity demand management strategies, is the focal point for the Science Policy Interface Platform of the U.N. Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY). His co-moderator was Yera Ortiz de Urbina, permanent observer to the U.N. for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
"It was really productive and exhilarating to sit at the same table with entities like IRENA, UN-Energy, UNIDO and UNESCO to discuss and put forward the recommendations from young practitioners around the world," Wijesuriya said.
Wijesuriya has been working on climate change-related issues, support for resilient communities and technology facilitation for the urban/rural sector in Sri Lanka for the last decade through a couple of organizations, including SciencePolicy Circle.
The breakout session he helped lead at the youth forum, Sustainable Energy for Climate Resilient Communities, focused on U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 7 to "ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all."
Since the forum, he has been working with entities such as Asian Institute of Technology and YOUNGO-UNFCCC to ensure youth participation at an upcoming global conference focused on SDG 7. He will also facilitate, support and present content at the U.N.'s 3rd Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science Technology and Innovation later this year, along with University of Colorado graduate student Kimmy Pugel.
"My contribution to these processes is driven by the need to implement the targets included in the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda in all communities across the world," he said. "There are many communities in need of technology facilitation and other resources to increase their resilience against the issues related to climate shifts, conflicts, inequalities of resources distribution, etc."
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