The third “Investing in Future”, IIFMENA, conference started on Wednesday with H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation, TBHF, speaking on the occasion.
They pointed out that the international community must reintegrate efforts to ease the sufferings of the youth in the region, save them from becoming prey to violence and extremism, and offer them a real chance to participate in peacebuilding and community building efforts.
Also present were Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and other senior dignitaries.
Addressing the 3,000 attendees at the opening ceremony, Dr. Sheikh Sultan said, “Dear participants, we are pleased to have you here at the third edition of the Investing in the Future conference, which dedicates itself to the challenges and opportunities of the youth in MENA region. Girls and boys are the pivots of development in the world. It is our duty to protect their rights, save them from the negative influences of extremist forces, and offer them an environment that supports their growth and gives them the right opportunities to build their future. We can make peace and prosperity a reality for future generations.”
Dr. Sheikh Sultan added, “IIFMENA will explore the best ways to promote short-term and long-term rehabilitation and promote youth skills and opportunities in the region. Today’s world competes to acquire and use knowledge to further growth and prosperity. This conference seeks to do the same by focussing on protecting youth interests and find the best practical solutions for their problems.”
Sheikha Jawaher thanked and welcomed participants through a recorded message. “It is time to make more efforts to shape the youth’s potential, intellectual capabilities and, most of all, regain their confidence in us – the international community. This confidence can be furthered when we show them through our efforts that we are with them; when we believe in their ability to lead change and give them the right opportunities to do so.”
Sheikha Jawaher added: “I pay special tribute to all young people here. This conference is a platform to express yourself freely, and Sharjah is your city. We call upon all of you to be our partners in decision-making. Tell us how you want to shape the future of your world because no one knows better how these wars and conflicts impact you. No one knows how to defend your rights better than you do.”
The floor was taken up next by the TBHF director who emphasised the UAE’s and Sharjah’s role in investing in people, especially the youth. “Welcome to the UAE and to Sharjah, which has harnessed all efforts and potential to serve and support people worldwide, and has established goodness as an identity – as an end and a mean. Inspired by the vision of our Ruler and with the support of his wife, we have furthered our determination to encourage youth and their ambitions, she stated.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, highlighted the role of leveraging communication technologies to empower youth and equip them to take on future challenges and opportunities. “The most important issue facing society today is the youth, and the greatest dangers are the gaps between generations, which leads to a separation between generations and hidden conflict. Today’s generation can’t imagine a world without instant communication; they have access to any amount of knowledge and information on their fingertips. Our children are becoming part of a workforce growing increasingly dependent on communication via digital technology. They will need to be better educated in the field,” he said.
Hessa Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, said, “The UAE Strategy 2030 focusses on youth, and how to improve their lives and provide them with better opportunities. The recent government summit has encouraged the youth to participate in decision-making activities. It has also opened the way for the youth to take part in the government’s work. We need to be more open to issues that are of interest to the youth.”
Acknowledging that the conference was aptly situated in Sharjah, which is the ‘education destination’, Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, said, “The efforts of the UAE in the education sector is based on international best practices; a great example of this is the recent e-learning initiative launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The e-learning initiative allows 50 million Arabic students worldwide access to educational programmes in Arabic. Through education, we will lay the foundation for a knowledge-based future where the youth in the region will be at the forefront of development.”
Over 60 speakers, 600 senior officials, diplomats, rights advocates and experts, and as well as young representatives of the SOS Children’s Villages and other youth organisations are attending the two-day IIFMENA 2018 organised by TBHF, a global humanitarian body dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, under the theme ‘Youth: Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’.
The conference is being held in partnership with the United Nations and other local affiliates, under the patronage of Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Sheikha Jawaher.