One of the most successful initiatives adopted to support youth participation in Saudi Arabia today is the Youth Diplomacy program initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The objective of the project is to further King Abdullah’s intercultural dialogue initiative and to foster better relations between young Saudis and youth in other parts of the world.
Dr. Yousef Al-Sadoun Undersecretary for Economic and Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is behind the ambitious plan to lead and mentor young Saudis in official youth delegations to different countries so that they can deliver a message of peace, friendship and mutual understanding. Initially the project included visits to five leading countries of the world, mainly, China, Brazil, Germany, India, and South Korea.
At the end of each visit the young diplomats addressed joint letters to their leaders with proposals to tackle issues of major concern that would be of benefit to their countries and to global prosperity.
The youth of the visited countries in turn visited Saudi Arabia to learn more about Saudi culture and the experience of our youth.
China was the first country to host the Saudi youth delegation. So far the Saudi-Chinese youth forum has reached the third level of cooperation. After the first visit of Saudi youth to China, a Chinese youth delegation visited Saudi Arabia. In the third phase of cooperation, the participants focused primarily on aspects of medical research and its clinical applications.
In their joint address the Saudi and Chinese youth outlined their desire to build economic cooperation by initiating a Saudi-Chinese sustainable business development center that would promote small- and medium-size enterprises from both countries to expand more diverse partnerships, thereby giving young people the opportunity to create their own jobs and reduce the unemployment problem prevalent in both countries. In the third round of meetings, they outlined an initiative to set up an organ donation center and a national database to link donors and recipients.
In 2011 the Saudi youth delegation visited Brazil. In a joint proposal the Saudi and Brazilian participants called on their leaders to create a joint center of excellence, which focused on research and development of slum management, in order to improve the socio-economic level of communities.
They highlighted three main aspects: Education, which can be developed through student and academic exchange programs and joint research in technology projects; youth cooperation in cultural, political and business relations, and finally providing job internships and volunteer work in major events. They also proposed the establishment of global youth forums to complement the U.N.’s annual youth meetings and to encourage stronger dialogue between countries for a better future.
The Saudi youth group that visited Germany focused its discussions on renewable energy and climate change. The forum in November 2011 was under the theme of “Climate Policy and Renewable Energy”. It was a good opportunity for the young participants to gain experience and learn more about climate change and pollution in order to play a more active role in preserving the environment and contributing to the preservation of the planet.
The two teams came up with ambitious proposals to collaborate in the area of renewable energy. Germany would transfer knowledge on renewable energy to Saudi Arabia and in return the Kingdom would extend solar energy across the MENA region and Europe. They also proposed the creation of “united youth” institutions to promote sustainable development and shape the new world order.
The Saudi-Indian Youth Forum focused on building friendship and boosting cooperation in the fields of communications and IT. The two teams proposed joint solutions in the medical, scientific and technological fields to offer services to remote regions with the help of advanced technology and e-health services.
In a joint message to their leaderships, the participants proposed to build an online portal which would provide volunteers with programs according to their level of education to facilitate a more adequate service and give everyone a chance to contribute. They also proposed the establishment of an E-commerce platform on the Internet(Kawthar.org) to provide the needy with basic living requirements, such as food, medication, and clothing. They concluded with a call for a world that is free of nuclear weapons and free of nuclear waste.
Last but not least the theme of the visit to South Korea was “Knowledge-based economy, e-education and advanced broadband Internet services. In Seoul the young Saudi team proposed introducing e-education in schools throughout the world to achieve global prosperity.
The youth diplomacy project is both an educational and a diplomatic mission. The impressive proposals that the young diplomats came up with demonstrate their high level of intelligence and in-depth thinking.
Saudi youth today have shown great potential and all they need is an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. For example, if they are officially represented in the Shoura Council they could provide innovative ideas and up-to-date information to influence better policies and offer better solutions to youth related affairs.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has certainly taken an important step toward nurturing and identifying the future leaders of our country. Other ministries should also come up with similar projects to engage our youth and offer them a chance to gain experience and contribute to our nation’s development.
* Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at email@example.com
This article was first published on the Saudi Gazette on Nov. 24, 2012