Big changes start with small beginnings.
Greta Thunberg gained the world’s attention when she first turned up at the Swedish parliament in 2018 to protest against climate change. Since then, ‘the Greta effect’ quickly took effect around the world – leading to the FridaysForFuture, a youth-led global climate strike movement
Now, her generation is poised to make a real difference. The role of youth in influencing policy has undeniably become more important.
According to the United Nations’ Youth Strategy, young people’s empowerment should not be only an end in itself, but also a means to build a better world. Constituting the largest share of the Egyptian population, it is only evident that governments should be partnering with young people and ensure they are not only “heard but also understood, not only engaged but empowered, and not only supporting but also leading policymaking”.
In other words, youth empowerment should go beyond just lip-service; it is a real opportunity that can truly reflect on innovative solutions to existing challenges.
While Egypt’s World Youth Forum represents a step forward in making this a reality, there are 3 main areas it works on and can improve for the next edition:
Empowerment, Not Just Engagement
Engagement is not enough for the youth today, because what will truly lead to impact is their empowerment to influence real policies and initiatives.
While Egypt’s Presidential Leadership Program and National Training Academy are great examples of building the capacity of youth to partake in leadership positions, the focal point should also be providing a channel for input and feedback from young people on the work of policymakers and leaders.
For instance, the forum can present more clearly the role of youth advisory boards and their importance in every institution, as well as establish regular online and offline communication between young people and senior policymakers in order to ensure that youth advisory remains for a long period of time.
Strengthen open knowledge platforms and knowledge production on youth challenges
The importance of the Word Youth Forum is to provide access to knowledge, as the key to youth empowerment lies not in merely facilitating networking and connection opportunities, but also providing easier access to knowledge.
The World Youth Forum’s pre-forum workshops and sessions are valuable and provide a lot of information on key topics and challenges the world is facing today, but there is also an opportunity to create an open-knowledge platform for young people, which can include a list of good practices and research material that can help them in further building their knowledge and expertise in a certain field.
To promote knowledge exchange, the forum can capitalize on technology and the internet to cultivate a culture of exchange and cooperation at the expense of bureaucracy, centralization, prioritization, and selection. Young people can also share their own research, articles, and books on this platform to be accessed by policymakers and researchers alike.
Ensure dedicated funding for youth-centered projects and initiatives
World conferences and forums can be a great way to mobilize funding for a certain cause. A notable example would be His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who continuously establishes funds during conferences and on particular dates, such as the recent 100 million ‘Great Arab Minds’ fund that will aim to support young bright minds.
The World Youth Forum can also provide a similar opportunity to mobilize funding, where a youth investment platform can be created to attract direct investment in youth-related projects, and strengthen existing funds that support youth initiatives.
Just like the story of Greta Thunberg, the World Youth Forum can grow into becoming a real movement for youth – one that puts youth at the centre of its vision and reflects the challenges that youth continually face in an uncertain world. Going beyond just bringing youth from around the world together, the forum can lay the foundation for youth-driven governance in Africa.