UNESCO Youth Empowerment Conference Draws Young Saudi Leaders

UNESCO is one of the best known organizations in the world, as they are responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. Headquartered in Paris, its organization just hosted young Saudi leaders and philanthropists at a three day event called, “Youth Volunteering and Dialogue: Preventing Violent Extremism and Strengthen Social Inclusion.”

One hundred young volunteers from 33 different countries around the world were represented, including the delegation from Saudi Arabia. One of those attending was Adham Gari of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

Changing Stereotypes

Adham, who overseas social impact, and youth volunteering at the ministry, has spent a lot of time devoted to philanthropy and volunteering both in the United States and back home in the Kingdom. Speaking to Arabia Now Mr Gari said, “It is an honor to represent Saudi Arabia at such a respectful organization as UNESCO and to be able to show the real image of Saudi youth. Saudi Vision 2030 focuses on building bridges to the world. People like to see real actions and we have to tell our stories by ourselves, so this will make impact and change stereotypes.”

Changing stereotypes is one of the key objectives of UNESCO, which states, “It strengthens the ties between nations and societies, and mobilizes the wider public. UNESCO’s messages are of increasing importance today, in a globalized world where interconnections and diversity must serve as opportunities to build peace in the minds of men and women.”

The initiative is funded by the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Program for a Culture of Peace and Dialogue, and is rooted in the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) for which UNESCO has been designated lead agency by the UN General Assembly. It also contributes to UNESCO’s operational strategy on youth 2014-2021, recognizing “youth as equal partners and actors for development and peace,” in line with the social, ethical and humanitarian engagement in the promotion of volunteering undertaken by the Government of Saudi Arabia.

Highlighting the Power of Youth Volunteering

The conference set out to highlight the power of youth volunteering for addressing global challenges as well as offering a platform for youth volunteers to connect with and influence the broader global agenda on peace and development, and assist in fostering greater international collaboration among youth volunteers.

Speaking to Arabia Now from Paris, Mr Gari said, “The King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Center wanted to be part of this conference, to spread the culture of dialogue and peace among youth. Youth volunteering and how this can this affect positive dialog among youth, by bringing together young critical thinkers, social problem-solvers from around the world, is a great way to do that.”

Mr Gari, who is a founder of Us to US, an organization based in the United States to encourage Saudi students to volunteer while studying there to help their local communities, went on to say, “I wanted other attending this conference to know that volunteering is a key part of Saudi Vision 2030. It includes strategic plans and goals and and how we aim to achieve the targets. In addition, we as the delegation wanted to highlight some successful stories and local practices.”

Given the world is home to over 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 – the highest number in history – conferences like this are critically important for long term global stability and understanding.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova recalled within the First conference on youth volunteering and dialogue in 2013 – which was held in Jeddah, “Volunteering is much more than action to complete a task. It is about the bonds that bring people together, that strengthens society. It is about forging trust, about reinforcing a sense of shared destiny.”

It is nice to know Saudi Arabia and delegations like this are key to that equation.