Monday,17 December, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)
Monday,17 December, 2018
Issue 1368, (9 - 15 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

In-Focus: We need to talk

In hosting the World Youth Forum, Egypt has a special responsibility to make innovative youth proposals part of its national programme and vision for the future, writes Galal Nassar

اقرأ باللغة العربية

Under the banner “We need to talk”, 3,000 youth from around the world gathered with their Egyptian peers at the World Youth Forum in Salam City, Sharm El-Sheikh, to talk about controversial issues emerging between different cultures, histories, religions, beliefs, values, languages and perceptions. There was also much common ground due to age, its idiosyncrasies, and dreams of changing the world for the better. Political youth movements around the world excel in spurring dreams for change, and are the engine for all movements from the far right to the far left and centre.

Youth is a time of impulsiveness and desire to be different, to invent new political and social laws and rules, which puts them always at odds with current society, its norms and customs. Youth hold within them dreams of changing reality based on their vision of how it should be.

The extraordinary information technology revolution bridged cultural and knowledge gaps about the “other”, especially among the youth who are most engaged and interactive with this revolution. Many movements, revolutions and ideas were promoted and supported by campaigns launched by youth, mobilising millions of youth around the world.

The significance of the Sharm El-Sheikh forum and other youth gatherings and conferences around the world is that they are a true opportunity for dialogue, uniting ideas and understandings on common issues. They also raise awareness on marginal or lesser known issues of interest to youth that need explaining and understanding by other groups. A dialogue on terrorism and its definition needs such gatherings to unify views, understandings and the awareness of youth about the growth of this phenomenon, the reasons behind it, how it spreads, the powers supporting it and the ideas and environment where it thrives. Also, its links to extremist thought and belief in the absence of development and presence of political greed by forces and states that carry out proxy wars via violent armed groups acting under the guise of religion, especially in the Middle East. And how extremist ideas and violence have touched worlds and countries once thought safe from terrorism, such as Europe and the US, and will continue to sweep the world in the absence of awareness and a political and societal will to fight back.

Another important issue for youth to learn about is the refugee problem — those who are stranded in the millions in camps on the borders of countries and continents. Youth need to listen to the experience of countries whose people are displaced, as well as those from countries suffering due to large numbers of refugees. This raises awareness about the phenomenon and its causes with youth listening to and engaging experts on the issue.

Yet another key topic is illegal migration, especially among youth. It is the dream of generations who want to escape a bitter oppressive reality to one where they can achieve their dreams of wealth, freedom, innovation, liberty and break their shackles, after the global community abandoned its developmental role while conflicts grow along with poverty and unemployment. It is important for youth on both sides of the migration divide to listen to one another: to those pursuing their dreams, and to those who suffer the consequences.

Freedoms and human development are two sides of the same coin for youth who want to break free from the shackles around them, even laws or constitutions. They seek jobs to save them from poverty, resulting in migration or extremism or joining terrorist groups that promise wealth and paradise and an end to wretched human society. This prevents them from integrating positively with their reality and to change it, before they are recruited as human machines of destruction of everything around them.

The guests at the conference are leaders, politicians and key figures in their countries who – perhaps more than the youth – need to listen to the youth, their alternative deep visions without the barriers and wretched circles of power that keep the ruler and the youth apart. Leaders need to see how youth manage the global system according to their vision, through simulations or mock models of global institutions and organisations, through an alternative and creative model, outside the box, and breaking ancient customs and traditions that have marginalised these organisations.

The views of youth on the environment are also innovative, especially regarding empowering youth. The proposed model was adopted at the last African Union (AU) summit, entitled “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”, to empower youth in Africa and commit AU countries to improve education, develop skills, upgrade social and health care and support self-employment for youth to enable them to build their nations. The result would empower Africa to become a main player on the global stage, thanks to a youth population capable of changing reality on the distressed continent.

Dialogue is a virtue that governments and youth must pursue. As the host country of the forum and sponsor of its recommendations, Egypt must be a model of what is possible and make the good ideas and visions proposed by the world’s youth a top priority in future plans for this country where youth account for nearly 60 per cent of the population.

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