Why in­vest­ing in our youth is needed for a bet­ter fu-

We need to do more to em­power youth – and tel­cos can help, too. By: Mariam Al Ham­madi, di­rec­tor of The Big Heart Foun­da­tion.

Comms MEA - - Backchat Society -

Here’s a ques­tion that keeps me awake some nights - what will we do with ad­vances in busi­ness, econ­omy and tech­nol­ogy if we do not pay at­ten­tion to har­ness­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of young peo­ple who will at some point be re­spon­si­ble for the suc­cess­ful func­tion­ing of their com­mu­ni­ties and the world?

Are we do­ing enough to safe­guard their ba­sic rights to ed­u­ca­tion, food, shel­ter, and other ba­sic ameni­ties? Are we mak­ing our best ef­forts to give them a real voice?

These ques­tions present us an op­por­tu­nity to think about the is­sues fac­ing young peo­ple around the globe, and es­pe­cially in the MENA re­gion where the youth cri­sis is per­haps the most in­ten­si­fied.

In our minds, youth stands for dreams, in­no­va­tion, and new op­por­tu­ni­ties – or sim­ply put, the fu­ture. Yet too many of these dreams are to­day be­ing thwarted. Glob­ally, youth un­em­ploy­ment is three times higher than that of adults.

Chil­dren and the youth face a big­ger risk when dis­placed; they are far more vul­ner­a­ble than adults when sub­ject to vi­o­lence and ex­ploita­tion, phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse, traf­fick­ing, or when they pulled away from schools and given arms by ex­trem­ists.

In 2017, the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UN­HCR) re­leased a re­port ac­cord­ing to which 57 per­cent refugee pop­u­la­tion com­prised young chil­dren in­clud­ing 173,800 un­ac­com­pa­nied and sep­a­rated child refugees.

These are some re­al­ties that Shar­jah’s leadership, who has en­trusted the emi­rate’s fu­ture with the youth, has com­mit­ted it­self to help chang­ing. Our am­bi­tions led us to cre­ate an in­ter­na­tional plat­form In­vest­ing in the Fu­ture: Mid­dle East and North Africa (IIFMENA) Con­fer­ence, to bring the world to­gether once ev­ery two years to tackle a spe­cific hu­man­i­tar­ian and devel­op­ment chal­lenge in the MENA Re­gion.

The theme of this year's edi­tion shed the spot­light on youth-re­lated is­sues with a fo­cus on the con­se­quences of wars, con­flicts and dis­as­ters on them. The po­ten­tial of a whole gen­er­a­tion risks be­ing wasted as the re­gion stokes so­cial ten­sions.

Youth are agents of change. Cre­at­ing large num­bers of de­cent jobs for young peo­ple is crit­i­cal for achiev­ing over­all devel­op­ment ob­jec­tives, from poverty re­duc­tion to bet­ter health and ed­u­ca­tion. Glob­ally, 600 mil­lion jobs will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years.

When given the space and op­por­tu­nity to re­build their own com­mu­ni­ties, young peo­ple can turn their en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity to­wards solv­ing to­day’s chal­lenges and to­mor­row’s prob­lems.

In­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ties will need to rally ef­forts to be able to ex­e­cute this strat­egy.

It is our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure our youth does not feel aban­doned, lost or cheated – it is in these times they are most vul­ner­a­ble and have no choice but to seek an al­ter­na­tive en­vi­ron­ment not con­ducive to their own devel­op­ment or that of their com­mu­nity’s.

Dis­place­ment, marginal­i­sa­tion and lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties are all prob­lems that hu­mans created for them­selves.

It’s time we turn these prob­lems into longterm so­lu­tions for us, and more im­por­tantly, for our chil­dren.

Youth are agents of change.”

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