DUBAI // Young Arabs make up the majority of the region’s population and they are the best people to develop a strategy for their future, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed said at the World Government Summit on Tuesday.
The Minister of Presidential Affairs said that there are more than 108 million young people in the 22 Arab countries and the summit was a starting point for young men and women to shape the region’s way ahead.
“This number represents an emblem of hope,” he said on the third and final day of the summit in Madinat Jumeirah. “When we talk about the future, we have to talk about the youth. It is in their hands.”
A two-day Arab Youth Forum took place alongside the summit, during which 150 young people were tasked with developing a plan to better their future and that of other young Arabs.
“Our stakes are high on these young men and women, and they are our advisers on a strategy that targets them,” said Sheikh Mansour. “They have a responsibility, and our younger children will look up at them as role models.”
He also urged governments to support the Arab youth and give them hope by “creating job opportunities and be models of leadership”.
The outcome of the forum was seven initiatives, Sheikh Mansour announced, that will form part of the National Arab Youth Strategy.
They are: the establishment of a youth centre in the UAE; a second edition of the forum; the establishment of a platform that allows young people to benefit from capacity-building programmes; an annual Arab Youth report that addresses desires and solutions; student exchange programmes; round-table discussions among young Arabs from all 22 Arab countries; and the establishment of a platform to discuss economy by using a crowd-sourcing model.
Also at the summit and addressing youth, Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar said: “The belief that youth are the driving force for our future has been long on the agenda of the UAE.”
Mr Cerar said educating today’s youth was crucial to achieving a sustainable future.
“We often think that we need to buy apartments, cars and other material things for our children to give them a secure and positive future, but we forget that the best way to provide them with such a future is to be an example with our own positive behaviour and work,” he said.
“Our youth is truly our future but we must not forget that we are the future for them as well. Living according to true values and being a good example is the best future for youth.”
Forum participants shared their experiences, too.
Sara, from Lebanon, who graduated from Harvard University, has established an association to empower and integrate those with eye-sight difficulties into society.
“I am blind, and I although I can’t see your faces, I can feel and hear the capacity and power of young citizens in the Arab World,” she said. “As an Arab woman, this gives me hope.”
Jenna Yamani, from Saudi Arabia, said that youths must be “armed” with knowledge and education to build a culture of entrepreneurship and to be successful.
“No success story is with one individual and we need to collaborate make sure that young people are part of the decision-making process,” she said.
For Syrian Mohammed Saeed Al Ghabra, his dream was simply to join a university. Despite the many challenges and difficulties he has had to endure, he is now a sophomore studying computer engineering.
“We, the Arab youth, need to have a safe, secure and healthy life, and I mean that on the physical and psychological levels,” he said. “World-class institutions need to be developed to have the Arab world become the Mecca of science and knowledge, as it once was.”
Ayman Al Musbah, from Sudan, a social activist on youth empowerment, said that he believed every single young Arab can contribute to bettering the future.
“Everyone holds a true value and a value that can be added to society,” he said. “The challenges we face today are complex, which calls then for complex solutions.
“I am proud to take part in this forum, in which more than 150 young people came together despite their different racial, religious and sectarian backgrounds.”
Hiba Darwish, from Palestine, stressed need for governments and private sector companies to be part of the solution.
“We want governments that listen to us and to our ideas and involve us in decision-making,” she said. “We need governments that have policies and legislation that place youth in the heart of them.”