In keeping with its tradition of proposing an actionable agenda for its selected theme of development, the third edition of Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) conference has launched the IIFMENA 2018 “Sharjah Declaration for Youth Empowerment”, based on the outcomes of discussions that brought together more than 60 senior youth advocates and international experts to shed light on its theme, ‘Youth – Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’.
The declaration was launched in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed, The Big Heart Foundation’s Humanitarian Envoy, Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Science, and Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Chairman of Sharjah Sport Council.
Acquisition of life skills at the centre of youth policy decision-making, fostering an enabling environment for young women, enabling flexible learning opportunities beyond schooling, recognizing youth entrepreneurship as a driving force for development, are among the nine-point declaration that the IIFMENA 2018 conference has revealed.
The Sharjah Declaration for Youth Empowerment has called on member states to:
· Put the acquisition of life skills at the center of Youth Policy Decision-making to prepare children and youth to LEAP into the Future: ready to Learn, engage in Employment, be Active Citizen and in control of their own Personal growth and empowerment.
· Promote policies that foster an enabling environment and recognise the important role of young women as agents of economic stabilisation and growth.
· Mainstream gender in all plans, policies and programmes which are aimed at empowering, protecting and supporting youth
· Utilise existing endeavors towards education reforms, and the changing demographics as a window of opportunity to translate investment in human capital into further development and economic growth.
· Coordinate efforts of governments, UN agencies, NGOs, academics and the private sector to transform education and promote open systems that enable flexible learning opportunities beyond schooling
· Note that youth entrepreneurship is a driving force of socio-economic development. It is an enabler, driver and empowering tool for sustainable development with far-reaching benefits.
· Act to create conditions which are conducive to youth entrepreneurs. The world’s large and growing youth population can be a powerful and transformative force for a better world – if the right investments and decisions are made now.
· Ensure that all refugee youth are protected against violence, abuse, and exploitation, and to have access to national systems and services delivered in a protective way, including health and psychosocial support.
· Have the best interests of refugee youth taken as a primary consideration in all matters affecting their well-being and their future.
The two-day conference, organised by the Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), with key partners, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNDP, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), UN Women, and SOS Children’s Villages, aimed to recognise youth as agents of change in peace and recovery processes. It highlighted that there is a need for a stronger youth-responsive development approach in addition to the need to adopt a coordinated effort in peacebuilding planning. Key speakers emphasised that partnerships must be forged across all sectors, making youth inclusion and participation integral to all strategies, policies and programmes aimed at empowering, protecting and supporting them, including refugees and IDPs.