x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Arab youth speak out on issues that affect them

Education, jobs, sexual health and security were among topics discussed during the Arab Youth Development Forum held in Dubai at the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare.

DUBAI // Education, employment, security and sexual health are among the key issues young people in the Arab world believe needs to be tackled in the coming years.

These topics and more were discussed during the opening of the Arab Youth Development Forum, which opened in Dubai on Sunday at the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare.

During the two-day event, the delegates, young people from across the Arab world, will formulate a series of recommendations that will be presented to the UN executive committee next month.

“It’s not enough to just say young people need to be empowered to do things,” said Doreen Abu Lail, a Jordanian delegate. “Young people want to know how they will be able to effect change within their countries. Young people have heard a lot about empowerment but it needs to go further. We need to have programmes on the ground that lead to improvement in sexual-health education, services for young people and jobs.”

The forum, which works in coordination with the United Nations Population Fund, aims to follow up on the UN’s millennium development goals as the needs of young people and countries change in the coming years.

“There needs to be more of a role for young people in civic society because they will play a vital role in how these countries will evolve,” said Lebanese delegate Nadim Abou Alwa.

“Young people want education in life skills such as leadership and communication, newer ways to use technology to improve education and services for young people.

“Every time you come to these forums you’re hopeful that it will inspire change, but it’s a long process. We are planting the seeds now and hopefully in two to three years we will see action and we will make progress.”

“The education system in many of these countries doesn’t always work in the interest of young people,” said Ahmed Awadallah, from Egypt. “There aren’t enough programmes that help young people to realise their talents.”

Ahmed Al Hindawi, the UN special envoy on youth, said the region would soon have the world’s youngest population and it was crucial to develop that potential.

“Young people are the greatest resource we have,” he said.

“In the 21st century, our wealth will be the 70 million young people and if you invest in people it is a very promising future.”

nhanif@thenational.ae