Eco­nomic growth key to fight against ex­trem­ism, MiSK fo­rum hears

Or­ga­ni­za­tion headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man and UN Devel­op­ment Program hold one-day fo­rum on tol­er­ance in New York

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL - FRANK KANE

A one-day youth fo­rum on tol­er­ance — held un­der the joint aus­pices of the MiSK Foun­da­tion, the Saudi Ara­bian phil­an­thropic or­ga­ni­za­tion headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, and the UN Devel­op­ment Program — was told that eco­nomic ad­vance­ment would en­cour­age young peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in civil so­ci­ety and peace­ful di­a­logue.

Ab­dul­lah Al-Moual­limi, Saudi am­bas­sador to the UN, told the fo­rum that the King­dom’s Vi­sion 2030 strat­egy aligned with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment.

“Both have not only eco­nomic pa­ram­e­ters, but are also about the po­ten­tial in so­ci­ety, the en­vi­ron­ment and in jus­tice. The Saudi strat­egy de­scribes a vi­sion of how to move from de­pen­dence on one com­mod­ity and how to de­velop a more co­her­ent so­ci­ety with in­tegrity in its ap­proach to so­cial is­sues, which are also the goals of the UN,” Al-Moual­limi said.

He high­lighted the role of young women in the trans­for­ma­tion. “Saudi women com­prise 60 per­cent of the col­lege pop­u­la­tion in Saudi Ara­bia, and they are go­ing to come to the work­force and make a dra­matic dif­fer­ence,” Al-Moual­limi said.

Bader Al-Asaker, sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the MiSK Foun­da­tion, said: “Our aim is to shine a light on the trans­for­ma­tive power of youth, to lift them up and prove a plat­form for young peo­ple to create pos­i­tive change.”

Michael Bloomberg, the me­dia en­tre­pre­neur and for­mer mayor of New York, said that he was in part­ner­ship with MiSK in Saudi Ara­bia to train young cit­i­zens in eco­nomics and fi­nance. He said that the grow­ing num­ber of young peo­ple who live in cities, both in the Mid­dle East and the rest of the world, would help pro­mote tol­er­ance and peace.

“Some peo­ple call them the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, but I’d rather re­fer to them as the metropoli­tan gen­er­a­tion. Now 50 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion live in cities, and noth­ing has done more than cities to spread tol­er­ance and peace in the world. Cities also en­cour­age in­no­va­tion and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment,” he added.

Achim Steiner, ad­min­is­tra­tor of the UN Devel­op­ment Program, also stressed the role of eco­nomic devel­op­ment in nur­tur­ing tol­er­ance. “For young peo­ple, achiev­ing the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals means the pos­si­bil­ity of at­tend­ing school, hav­ing ac­cess to health care, par­tic­i­pat­ing in their civic and po­lit­i­cal dis­course, and liv­ing free from con­flict. It means hav­ing hope and pros­per­ity.”

The one-day MiSK event in New York con­sisted of high-level panel dis­cus­sions, speeches and work­shops, with more than 20 youth lead­ers from round the world.

A se­nior ad­viser to MiSK said the event was part of the King­dom’s global out­reach program, and that there would be fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and the UN on spe­cific devel­op­ment ini­tia­tives.

“The younger gen­er­a­tion is driven by the de­sire to create an im­pact, and if you don’t give them op­por­tu­ni­ties in en­trepreneur­ship they’ll find an­other way to do that,” the ad­viser said.

The MiSK-UN event, which was at­tended by more than 400 peo­ple from 60 coun­tries, co­in­cided with the 72nd Ses­sion of the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly (UNGA).

A panel mod­er­ated by for­mer NBC News an­chor Tom Brokaw and fea­tur­ing for­mer US Sec­re­tary of State Madeleine Al­bright fo­cused on the in­for­ma­tion rev­o­lu­tion and what she called the “dis­ag­gre­ga­tion” of news. Al­bright ad­vised the young au­di­ence to be skep­ti­cal about the in­for­ma­tion they en­counter, es­pe­cially on so­cial me­dia.

Two other pan­els dis­cussed the chal­lenges faced by refugees around the world and how best to counter vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists. Pan­elists on the lat­ter panel stressed the im­por­tance of en­gag­ing with youth and of­fer­ing them a sense of hope and pur­pose.

One mem­o­rable mo­ment came when Saudi writer Kawthar Al-Ar­bash re­counted the mo­ment she learned that her son had been killed af­ter he stopped a sui­cide bomber from car­ry­ing out an at­tack in­side a mosque in the city of Dam­mam. Her mov­ing, per­sonal ac­count was met with a stand­ing ova­tion.

NEW YORK: Eco­nomic devel­op­ment is a key fac­tor in de­ter­ring young peo­ple in the Mid­dle East and else­where from be­com­ing in­volved in vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism, a gath­er­ing of world lead­ers heard in New York.

A panel mod­er­ated by for­mer NBC News an­chor Tom Brokaw and fea­tur­ing for­mer US Sec­re­tary of State Madeleine Al­bright fo­cused on the in­for­ma­tion rev­o­lu­tion. (Twit­ter)

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