Why Be Optimistic About the First National Youth Conference?

2On October 25th, Sharm El Sheikh hosts the first National Youth Conference for three days. The conference is under the auspices of H.E. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who unveiled this initiative during the Youth Day Celebration on January 9th, in the Opera House, stating “I decided that the year 2016 be the year of the Egyptian youth, where we can start the genuine rehabilitation of youth within a national systematic methodical framework”.

Over three days, more than 3000 young Egyptians, from across the social spectrum, from university students, athletes to political party members and politicians, will take part in an open dialogue with policy makers and more than 300 public figures and experts, who will be contributing as participants, speakers or moderators in almost 24 public sessions. During these sessions, youth will share their views on how to enhance political, economic and social equality and draw on the infinite force of entrepreneurship in building healthier communities. Also, discussions will tackle the ways to preserve our arts and culture and stretch our capacity to use sports as a means of ending violence and instilling positive behaviors. Furthermore, 8 specialized workshops as well as an art gallery will be organized.

Indeed, this first national youth conference is a special event in many ways. It is a youth-inspired and government planned and organized event which is exclusively devoted to listening to important stakeholders. Over the past months, the ministry of youth and sport has been consulting and working closely with youth and youth organization, to set the stage for this unique event. The Ministry has reached out to ministers, political, religious and media leaders who met with young Egyptians from different governorates to get insights and listen to the youth’s needs and issues of concern. I have participated in one of these gathering at the Olympic center in Maadi, which featured Sheikh Ahmed Turk. I have witnessed the youth commitment in doing what needs to be done at present, as productive citizens, as key agents for social change and as catalysts in building the modern state we all aspire for. I have also touched their enthusiasm for the first national youth conference, which is an important platform the government relies on to communicate with the youth and involve them as problem-solvers and agents for modernization and development. I am more confident than ever that youth have been a major force in every economic, social, and technological development in the modern world.  They offer every society the hope for economic and social well-being and for new visionary leadership. For, young people have the energy, the open-minds, and the time to make this happen but they need to be enabled and empowered by the societies in which they live.

It is in this spirit that the government is organizing the conference, under close supervision from the office of the president. On Egyptian Youth Day, President El Sisi has set the government’s action plan by stating that “speaking of hope and associate it with youth are not only words without a goal, I spell out in a public event, it is nothing but a genuine attempt to restore the path of this nation for progress and prosperity.” The government has indeed started implementing this approach, targeting the development of the youth’ capabilities, by launching the Presidential Leadership Program (PLP) and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB) and many other initiatives as highlighted by the President on the Egyptian Youth Day. Moreover, the government is working to ensure that youth are engaged in the development process because once empowered, given the chance to play an active role in the decision making process, and allowed to attain their dreams, youth can be catalysts for economic growth, prosperity and development.

Hence, looking at the sessions of the conference, the purpose of holding this forum is clear; it is to empower our young people to use their innovative skills and cooperative power to find real solutions to pervasive challenges facing our nation. It is a platform to go beyond the confines of age, build bridges across generations and collectively think of ways of addressing common goals and aspirations.  And to the many, who may see me optimistic about this forum, discussions and conclusions, I would say look at the topics of the public sessions to know the reason. When discussions are undertaken about the youth’s vision about education reform and the opportunities available to youth for participation in the municipalities’ elections; evaluation of the youth participation in the parliament and the link between the education system and workforce needs; studying the root causes of violence in stadiums and how to deal with it; how to activate sport’s activities in schools and university; the role of the youth in implementing Egypt’s vision 2030, you must be confident that the year of the youth is not just a slogan, it is a reality in the making.

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