Young people in the Arab world have been working toward fulfilling the region’s high expectations. More than 28 percent of the Middle East’s population is aged between 15 and 32 and this group of people, of which I am a part, is the future of our region. This is why continuous empowerment and support for such a young population is crucial in making sure we have a bright and successful future for all people.
This is also why our governments are setting their expectations high, and why they are empowering us with the right tools and knowledge to be prepared to lead in the future. It is not an understatement when we say that the youth are ambitious and hardworking and want to achieve the impossible — because that is the simple reality. We are working with our governments to create a possibility that has never been witnessed in our history.
Last week I was in Cairo attending the 2nd Arab Sustainable Development Week, organized by the Arab League, the Egyptian Ministry of Planning, Follow-up and Administrative Reform, the UN, and the World Bank. The energy between the young attendees that I witnessed was fueled by the aspirations they have to be given greater representation at such a high level. In attendance were many Egyptian and Arab youths who were part of the Arab Youth Council for Sustainable Development, but we still need to see more young Arab involvement and representation.
This council is the first regional platform for young people to engage with the Arab League in decision-making. Its structure is still simple and it is focusing primarily on the Middle East and North Africa region. It is also engaging Arab youths in partnerships with other youth platforms around the world. Its members hope to take on a leadership role in terms of Arab youth representation globally. They are currently working to have the council formally mandated within the Arab League so that young people from all over the region can play an official part.
The Arab Youth Council for Sustainable Development embodies the true meaning of achieving the high expectations I have mentioned. The young people I saw and interacted with were all volunteers for their countries and the Arab world. They were interactive but also proactive in the way they worked with high-level officials and participated in the meetings.
Together, they worked on organizing the main youth panel of the week, which was titled “The role of youth in implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.” This panel had a great audience that showed a tremendous amount of support. The main panelist was the Egyptian Minister of Planning, Follow-up and Administrative Reform Dr. Hala El-Said. She stressed that the UN’s 2030 agenda cannot be achieved without the strong presence and participation of youth, with Egypt being a fine example, as young people are playing a key role in the update of the nation’s Vision 2030. This commitment of youth empowerment is also shown in Saudi’s Vision 2030.
Though the work of the council is very new, I sensed a greater need for support from more Arab countries for the work that is currently taking place. Throughout the week, and from a personal point of view, I pictured how the involvement of the Saudi youth within the council will definitely benefit our young people by allowing them to be part of such a powerful regional platform, which emphasized greatly on the united Arab identity. I also felt like the Saudi youth can add much to further the work of the council, not only on sustainable development matters but also on general economic and social matters regionally and internationally.
Additionally, the increased participation of young people from all over the region would create a greater diversity of thought within the council, which aims toward one united goal.
The high expectations of youth success in the region cannot only be measured in studies — it also needs to be presented through a strong voice in regional platforms. The Arab Sustainable Development Week was an opportunity for the Arab Youth Council for Sustainable Development to participate for the first time, and the amount of support shown by Arab government officials, especially the Egyptian and Saudi governments and the Arab League, was very promising. However, we also need all Arab governments to have a closer look into the future of this council and see how young people from all countries can participate in it.
For us here in the Kingdom, I strongly believe that the representation of our youth on this platform will give the young Saudi voice an opportunity to be heard in the region’s social and economic matters.
• Razan Farhan Alaqil is a student of political science, international comparative politics and global studies. She is a Saudi youth representative at the UN.