Labour MP, Virendra Sharma, hosts the British South Asian Youth Summit #BSAYS2020 - South Asia Time

Labour MP, Virendra Sharma, hosts the British South Asian Youth Summit #BSAYS2020

 August 23, 2020  

London– To celebrate the relationship between Britain and South Asia, veteran Labour party MP, Virendra Sharma, organised and hosted the ‘British South Asian Youth Summit 2020’ with youth delegates from eight countries of South Asia and Britain. Guest of honour Ms. Gaitri I. Kumar, Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, spoke at the opening of the summit alongside Professor Gamini Keerawella, Executive Director of the Regional Center for Strategic Studies (RCSS), part of a global network led by civil society organisations actively working to prevent violent conflict and build more peaceful societies.

Virendra Sharma, MP, said, I was delighted to arrange this summit to bring together young people and future leaders to foster cooperation and understanding between South Asia and Britain, the theme of our summit. The quality of discussion, knowledge of the delegates and commitment to progressive causes by the young delegates was seriously impressive, especially considering they were all under 31. As a British Member of Parliament, but originally from India, I have a perspective on the UK’s relations that differs from the norm. That is why I wanted to bring this group together.”

Delegates from the nine countries discussed a diverse range of topics in breakout groups, building a progressive, sustainable and inclusive economy, strengthening democratic institutions, protecting and expanding the natural environment, decolonising education – what does progressive and inclusive education look like, diversity, difference and inclusivity – religion and LGBTQ issues. The summit attendees then put together a Memorandum of Understanding based on their discussions. This piece of work was done entirely by the youth delegates.

Parts of the MOU read:

“A sustainable economy is achievable when all members of society are empowered to play active roles. South Asia needs regional collaboration to reduce industrial waste and invest in renewable energy to tackle the adverse effects of climate change.”

“Taking the fundamental principle of Democracy into account, every individual should be ensured that their vote, voices, opinions matter irrespective of arbitrarily assigned traits through democratic institutions reaching out to minority individuals residing in remote locations via robust campaign structures, technologically empowered convenient voting mechanisms, secure unbiased feedback systems, and expansion of democratic ideal-based knowledge among them.”

“It is countries that contributed least to climate change will likely feel its effects most, so we need a system that makes sure developed richer nations pay more to prevent climate breakdown. We need more action, not just more words. We need to build international cooperation to create a sustainable food system that maintains our fish stocks, prevents soil erosion, is more organic, stops the use of pesticides and reduces its carbon footprint.”

“Include all perspectives, particularly in history curricula. In Britain in particular, it is imperative that young Britons learn about all aspects of their history. Increase the teaching of the histories of the countries of South Asia in our own curricula. Prioritising decolonisation in order to expand the curriculum and improve both teaching and course content.”

“We seek a society in which the law is reformed to ensure all liberation groups are granted equal protection, along with freedom from harassment and a society that not just tolerates but welcomes and treats all fairly and equally. The United Kingdom has an opportunity to offer precedent for south Asian countries to foster inclusive traditions in their policy space and corporate realm.”

Addressing the inaugural British South Asian Youth Summit, Gaitri I Kumar, High Commissioner of India, Gaitri I Kumar, congratulated Hon’ble Shri Virendra Sharma, MP for his initiative and called upon India-UK youth to work together for a bright new era in India-UK relations.

“Bound by shared values and aspirations, our youth can work together to bring innovative, affordable and accessible solutions to global challenges. They are a key factor in the unique living- bridge between India  and the UK and we look forward to their participation  and valuable  contribution  for the prosperity of our people and a better world,” she said.

Following the presentation of the MOU by the delegates the summit also heard from Dr Debanjan Chakrabarti of the British Council India, and Professor Gamini Keerawella answered further questions on peace building innovation in the region.  MP Sharma thanked all the speakers, praised the amazing work of the delegates and committed to continue facilitating discussion between the youth groups involved. More than 100 young people attended and participated in the programme which Mr Sharma committed to continuing next year with BSAYS2021. Delegates posted on social media using the hashtag #BSAYS2020.