Press Release

  • Sharjah to Ignite Youth Leadership in the 3rd edition of “Investing in the Future

    Sharjah to Ignite Youth Leadership in the 3rd edition of “Investing in the Future

    Youth:Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities

    Under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin MuhammadAl Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness, Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, Sharjah is set to host the third edition of the “Investing in the Future” (IIFMENA) conferenceon October 24thand 25th.

    The event is organized by The Big Heart Foundation, the Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, under the theme “Youth: crisis challenges and development opportunities”.

    This year’s edition aims to highlight youth-related issues to sustainable development across the world, especially focusing on areas affected by wars, conflicts, and disasters. The event will underscore the role of youth in the development process and how they can shape their future and build their countries. Other included topics are: the importance of development in protecting the young generation from engaging in extremist activities or criminal acts because of circumstances they were forced to live in. The event will facilitate the speakers to discuss challenges and opportunities in creating an effective international investment road map for the future of the youth around the world.

    HH Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi said: "Young people should be entitled to a good education, and safe and nurturing environments, but unfortunately, several children in the Middle East and North Africa find themselves caught up in tough situations, which prevent them from shaping their futures in the way they want or live quality lives. The upcoming edition of the Investing in the Future conference will be taking these challenges head on in a bid to alleviate the region's youth from the sufferings of poverty, displacement, marginalisation and lack of opportunities. IIFMENA is a platform dedicated to bringing the youth face to face with federal as well as social development organisations for an honest, open debate, so as to design strategies that will engage them in their development process. Active representation of and participation by the youth is an effective way to make the process truly collaborative, featuring real partnerships where young people are equal decision makers in building a future for them and their countries."

    Her Highness added: "We want to ensure that voices of young people are heard loud and clear. We want to support them to be able to share their ideas and opinions, and think collectively about what they can do to create a better future for themselves and their communities by contributing to its prosperity. The UAE and Sharjah are committed to protecting the rights of the human being by offering them an environment to thrive in, especially the younger generation. IIFMENA is a key facilitator of this objective and brings together top leaders and advocates in the field to present practical and sustainable ways to develop the skills and capabilities of the region's youth and discover the right opportunities for them to become influential members of society.”

    This year’s conference is taking place at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre. The first day includes a series of sessions on policies and strategies to improve the circumstances of youth in MENA region. The session willhost government officials, internationalnon-government organizations, top academics, journalists, and experts. The sessions are dedicated to discussing and addressing “Youth Unemployment” issue. Currently, unemployment rates are rising as high as 30% among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Participants will also learn more about how this challenge can create a negative impact on the youth’s life, especially considering the demographic and political changes resulting from conflicts, asylum, and migration.

    Other discussion topics include: education opportunities for the youthand development of the 21st century skillsetas a part of the modern education system. Speakers will tackle ways to support young entrepreneurs, harness their talents, and explore potentials to achieve economic stability and social security. These are thetwo-keygoalof sustainable developmentagenda. The second day of the conference includes a youth forum that brings together students from MENA countries and representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations. They will discuss the challenges and ways to empower youth socially and economically.

    In 2014, the IIFMENA theme was “Protecting Refugee Children in the Middle East and North Africa”. The event gatheredover 300 international figures including leaders and top officials who were concerned with the issues of refugee children. One of the main outcomes of the conference was to establish a set of principles related to the protection of refugee children and adolescents.

    The main focus of the 2016 IIFMENA was “Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region”. The two-day event was dedicated to addressing education, as well as women’s economic and social empowerment. The closing session announced the adoption of the ‘Sharjah Declaration’ that aims to strengthen the resilience of women and girls. Also, to promote their role in the economic developmentand protect them from crisis that result from disasters and asylum issues in the Arab region.
     
  • Registration for ‘Investing in the Future’ Conference Now Open

    Registration for ‘Investing in the Future’ Conference Now Open

    IIFMENA conference to be held on October 24 & 25

    The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), the global humanitarian body dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide and organiser of the Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) conference, has opened registration to individuals and organisations for its third edition, due to be held on October 24–25, at the Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre (JRCC) in Sharjah. The two-day event is held in partnership with UNHCR, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women and Nama Women Advancement Establishment, and will be held this year under the theme, ‘Youth: Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’. Under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness, Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, the conference will address youth-related issues and challenges in the Middle East and North Africa, with a special focus on the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters on them. Discussions will highlight the important role sustainable development plays in protecting the future of youth, and how their participation in the decision-making process can significantly benefit the future of their communities. The importance of preventing the young generation from engaging in extremist activities or criminal acts will also come under the spotlight. Speakers will discuss challenges and opportunities with the aim of charting an effective road map for investing in the future of youth around the world, and specifically in the MENA region.

    On its first day, the conference will feature a series of interactive sessions engaging local and international organisations in debates on policies and strategies to improve the situation of the MENA region’s youth. The sessions will suggest the necessary mechanisms and appropriate solutions that contribute to youth advocacy and support new education plans in keeping up with the current era and important skillset. Other topics include supporting entrepreneurship and how to create opportunities for the youth. The youth forum will also highlight the importance of increased participation of young women in the job market, and address social traditions and practices that hinder their advancement. The second day will host a youth forum that will allow participants the opportunity to discuss various challenges facing them and strategise ways to support and empower them. The conference will underline the need of governments, civil society, international organisations, academia and private organisations to work collectively and combine their efforts in supporting the effective engagement of youth in decision making and finding practical solutions to challenges and crises facing them. Individuals and organisations interested to attend in this edition of the IIFMENA conference can register on http://iifmena.org. The conference is a significant step in bringing the world together on one platform to discuss issues of importance and inspire positive change.

    The organising committee has urged participants to share their opinions and insights, which will help generate practical solutions to address the growing youth crisis in the region, and lead the way in investing in shaping them as agents of peace and development.
     
  • Top Emirati Leaders to Focus on Youth Empowerment Issues at ‘Investing in the Future’ Conference

    Top Emirati Leaders to Focus on Youth Empowerment Issues at ‘Investing in the Future’ Conference

    Top UAE officials will be sharing their insights and expertise on how to tackle the youth crisis in the MENA region at the two-day Investing in the Future Conference (IIFMENA 2018), that will take place in Sharjah on October 24-25. Organised by the UAE-based global humanitarian organisation, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) with key partners, UNHCR, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women, SOS Village and NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), the conference is themed Youth – Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, and offers its global platform to highlight the challenges faced by young people in the crisis-laden MENA region, and offer practicable solutions with a focus on stronger youth participation and inclusion in decision-making.

    Humanitarian Efforts for Sustainable Development
    On the first day, the conference will host Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council and TBHF’s Humanitarian Envoy, in recognition of his prestigious stature and community efforts as well as his ability to influence others about the importance of humanitarian work. He will be seen as a key speaker at the closing session of day one of the conference (Oct 24). Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi believes in the power of youths as the nation’s human capital and shapers of its future, as well as in the TBHF’s role in communicating humanitarian messages carried out by Sharjah and the UAE through various valuable and unique initiatives that aims to alleviate the suffering of the underprivileged people and those affected by manmade and natural disasters worldwide. Besides leading the Sharjah Media Council, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi is a member of the Sharjah Executive Council and Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation. He led pioneering efforts that led to establishing and restructuring of several visual, audio, and electronic mediums. Sheikh Sultan was named by the Arab league as the Media Personality of the Year 2016. Sheikh Sultan is the mastermind behind the 2012 launch of the International Government Communication Forum, the first of its kind initiative in the region. In 2013, he also launched the first Government Communication Network in Sharjah.

    Innovate New Technologies that have a positive impact on people's lives
    Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, will touch on the methods of artificial intelligence (AI) and its role in empowering youth. He will underscore the importance of harnessing latest technologies to promote innovation, develop systems and techniques that can affect and bring about a positive impact on people’s lives, during the opening session on the second day of the IIFMENA conference. Al Olama joined the Federal Cabinet as the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence following a Cabinet reshuffle in October 2017. He was appointed in this position to advance the government performance by investing and applying the latest technologies and IA tools in various aspects of life. Al Olama is currently the Managing Director of the World Government Summit. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Dubai Future Foundation and Deputy Managing Director of the Foundation. In November 2017, the UAE government selected Omar Al Olama as a member of the Future of Digital Economy and Society Council at the World Economic Forum. During his work in the Future Department at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, Al Olama participated in developing the UAE Centennial 2071 strategy. He also participated in developing the UAE’s 4th Industrial Revolution Strategy, and worked on developing the UAE’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the first of its kind globally. Importance of developing leadership skills Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills in the UAE, is among the keynote speakers on the first day of IIFMENA (Oct 24), and will address the need of young people to gain future skills that support their role in overseeing the development of higher education and scientific research. Youth’s role is also important in developing education policy and regulating the function of institutions in the education sector, as well as ensuring the quality and alignment of its outputs with the job market’s needs and requirements. Al Falasi has been appointed as the Minister of State for Higher Education since February 2016, to supervise the development of higher education and scientific research in the UAE. In October 2017, His portfolio expanded to include Advanced Skills to equip the UAE youth with the necessary skills for the future.

    Sustainable solutions for social stability
    HE Hessa bint Eisa Bu Humaid, Minister of Community Development is a keynote speaker and will be addressing the youths and young influencers on the first day of the conference on Oct 24. Since her appointment as Minister of Community Development, Bu Humaid has been active in designing sustainable initiatives to empower community groups, especially youths. She is keen to find far-reaching and sustainable solutions to ensue social stability. Bu Humaid focuses on addressing the root causes rather than dealing with its effects, using latest scientific techniques through coordination and networking with stakeholders, to ensure appropriate support for eligible categories. She preps for scenarios that addresses various social dimensions. Bu Humaid has been appointed as Minister of Community Development following the Cabinet reshuffle in October 2017. Her responsibilities include promoting community and family cohesion and a society actively involved in development of the UAE. Bu Humaid has twice won the Sheikh Rashid Award for Scientific Excellence. She also received the GCC’s Award of the National Olympic Committee for the distinguished innovative youth category in 2013 and the award of the excellent junior government employee in 2003. Youth engagement in development of advance sciences
    HE Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, will be joining the President of SMC as one of the key speakers at the closing session of IIFMENA on Wednesday, Oct 24. She is driven by a strong belief in the importance of youth engagement in all aspects of life and their essential role in the development of advancement sciences and technologies, that have become an inherent part of today’s life. Most recently, Al Amiri was one of the speakers at a global conference on “Youth and Sustainable Peace”, which was organised by the TRENDS Research & Advisory, to discuss the crucial role of young people in achieving sustainable world peace. Many international reports revealed that young people are the most vulnerable age groups facing many difficulties and challenges, both in times of war or post-war and even during the phases of reconstruction. Al Amiri, who has been appointed the Minister of State for Advanced Sciences after the Cabinet reshuffle in October 2017, holds the post of the Chairperson of the UAE Council of Scientists. She also holds the position of Emirates Mars Mission Deputy Project Manager at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. Al Amiri started her career in sciences as the Programs Engineer on Dubai Sat-1 and Dubai Sat. She also worked as Director of Research and Development at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

    Empowering girls and women
    Also speaking at the IIFMENA conference will be Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and Board Member of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation. Through her participation as one of the keynote speakers who will open discussions on the second day of the IIFMENA conference (Oct 25) she will highlight achievements of young women and female entrepreneurs in the UAE, MENA region and the wider globe. She is leading outstanding efforts to empower girls and women and promote their abilities and skills that allow them to make positive changes in society. BinKaram is the Director and Board Member of the Children Centre since 2013, and Board Member of Sharjah Tatweer Forum since 2010. She is also Head of the Pink Caravan’s Higher Steering Committee since 2012. BinKaram was the Head of the Communication and Event Committee at Arab Women Sports Tournament (AWST) in 2013 and 2014. The organising committee has welcomed interested Individuals and organisations to register on http://iifmena.org
     
  • Ahmed Aboul Gheit among Key Speakers at Investing in the Future Conference in Sharjah

    Ahmed Aboul Gheit among Key Speakers at Investing in the Future Conference in Sharjah

    Third edition begins on Oct 24 to discuss opportunities for youth in MENA

    The third edition of the Investing in the Future Conference (IIFMENA 2018) has revealed that Egyptian diplomat and leading personality in the region’s peace efforts, HE Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, is one of the key speakers who will be on the IIFMENA platform on October 24, day one of the conference. The two-day event is being hosted this year under the theme ‘Youth – Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’. Through Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s participation, the conference aims to bring his insight and expertise to further regional discussions focused on addressing the rapidly growing youth crises in MENA. He will be sharing key recommendations on how governments as well as youth entities should approach the development of youth’s creative skills and life-long learning in a more relevant and effective manner. The conference is organised by the UAE-based global humanitarian charity, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, in partnership with several UN agencies and NAMA Women Advancement Establishment. The conference brings together many government representatives, international entities and NGOs, as well as a host of academics, international experts, press representatives and youth organisations, to shed the spotlight on ways governments, civil society, international organisations, academia, private sector can collaborate to involve the region’s youth more effectively in consultative, policy- and decision-making processes, enabling a more inclusive and participatory approach to tackling challenges and offering practical, scalable solutions. A vision for a healthy relationship between generations HE Aboul Gheit has expressed his firm belief in the strength of Arab communities and the capabilities of the Arab youth on several occasions. In his address at the 41st session of the ‘Council of Arab Youth and Sports Ministers’, he underscored that in order for the Arab community to advance and the nations that comprise it to progress, its youth must share a healthy relationship. At the Arab Thought Foundation’s Annual FIKR Conference, which was held last April in the UAE under the theme ‘Repercussions of Chaos and Challenges of the Stability Industry’, Gheit talked about the grave consequences of not educating and empowering youth highlighting they will continue to take up lower level posts, subordinate positions and low value jobs if the situation does not change for the better.

    Aboul Gheit served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt from 2004 to 2011, and he contributed to building a close relationship with the United Nations through his consistent participation in official missions. He also served as Egypt's Permanent Representative to the United Nations between 1999-2004. Individuals and organisations interested to attend in this edition of the IIFMENA conference can register on http://iifmena.org. The conference is a significant step in bringing the world together on one platform to discuss issues of importance and inspire positive change. Individuals and organisations interested to attend in this edition of the IIFMENA conference can register on http://iifmena.org. The conference is a significant step in bringing the world together on one platform to discuss issues of importance and inspire positive change. The IIFMENA conference addresses sustainable development issues of youth from around the world, particularly in areas torn apart by crises, conflicts, wars and natural disasters. It also highlights the critical role of development in protecting their future and the future of their countries, and protecting them from falling prey to extremism. The participants will discuss an array of crisis challenges, as well as development opportunities, enabling Sharjah to contribute to creating an international action plan for effective investment in the future of youth from around the world.
     
  • Young Leaders at Investing in the Future MENA Conference Put Forth ‘IIFMENA Youth Statement’

    Young Leaders at Investing in the Future MENA Conference Put Forth ‘IIFMENA Youth Statement’

    The young delegates who were invited by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) to the Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) conference from across the MENA region have got together and developed the ‘IIFMENA Youth Statement’, a set of 15 recommendations based on four days of consultation and expert workshops dedicated to exploring a more inclusionary approach to development in the region by focusing on harnessing opportunities for the youth. Marking a successful conclusion of the third edition of the two-day conference (24 & 25 October), a delegation of 12 young women and men have developed the Statement covering IIFMENA’s mandated areas of youth education, economic empowerment of youth, social norms and practice hindering young women reaching their potential, and the role of youth in crisis response and resilience building. The closing comments at IIFMENA 2018 were offered by Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Executive Chairman of the Department of Government Relations, who shed light on the importance of such forums in reiterating to the international community, the importance of protecting the youth from the horrible outcomes of war and extremism by offering them opportunities to educate themselves and develop their capacities. He said: “It is crucial to turn empowerment slogans into practical programmes that lead to tangible results, especially in countries facing crises and conflict. Sharjah seeks to further global efforts aimed at harnessing partnerships that are forged to build a bridge that will enable the region’s youth to march into a better, more stable and secure future. The Investing in the Future conference is an example that nothing is impossible without goodwill and a sincere desire. IIFMENA is instrumental to [enabling] the youth to develop their capabilities, and play their role in building their communities.” Adding to these observations, TBHF Director, Mariam Al Hammadi, said: “After all the discussions that have taken place here with the youth, we can confidently say our decision to provide them a platform, the Investing in the Future conference, was absolutely right and necessary. We cannot create a stable, prosperous without them. Leaders and officials cannot develop policies and solutions to the crises in isolation from youth partnerships to guide us about their expectations of the future and how they intend to lead it. “These convictions drive our efforts in the UAE and Sharjah. His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah says, ‘providing good education to our youth is the best long-term investment ever, and the innovative ideas of the talented graduates of our universities are the foundation of achieving the development goals’. This means allowing the youth to assume their responsibility of leading the future. This forum was a call out to them to face their challenges and further the achievements themselves; create solutions, not wait for them.”

    The IIFMENA Youth Statement announced at the closing ceremony by a young speaker from SOS Youth Advisory Board, stipulates the following:
    1. Ensure the inclusion of youth in the decision-making process through the establishment of a quasi-governmental Regional Youth Advisory Council, with pan-Arab representation, which would be enriched with the representation of youth minorities, refugees, and stateless youth. The released legislation would be supported by local/national executive youth-led councils in the respective countries and social groups.
    2. Establish youth ministries across the region backed by national budgets for youth development with the average age of ministers not exceeding 35 years of age.
    3. Mandate the establishment and funding of youth community centers in all urban and rural areas, allowing youth free access to supplementary educational, technological, recreational, cultural, and social facilities and activities.
    4. Set and formally adopt anti-harassment reporting and protection policies, including social media harassment and cyber bullying, with strict disciplinary actions against offenders, and provision of coaching and psychological support.
    5. Develop community awareness and empowerment campaigns promoting gender equality and social justice at grassroots and community levels for the rights of young women and girls, and ensure male participation in anti-discrimination dialogue.
    6. Develop and support youth-led innovation and entrepreneurial projects, through providing digital, and physical platforms for cocreation, skills-based training, and funding solutions.
    7. Formulate an intellectual property rights (IPR) protection law, specifically for youth innovation and youth-led projects.
    8. Provide the youth with investment, banking solutions and access to credit facilities supporting their economic empowerment and financial independence, backed by inclusive financial literacy initiatives
    9. Ensure access to inclusive and equitable quality education through the implementation of decentralisation policies for guaranteeing equal distribution of educational and financial resources, over different rural and urban demographic landscapes.
    10. Create an online learning platform to allow youth, over all geographic areas, equal and free access to innovative learning technologies and academic enhancement tools, with the aim of supporting youth needs for supplementary learning.
    11. Develop and mandate the implementation of business-led youth mentorship, career-guidance, paid internship, training, and job readiness programs, allowing all youth access to employability and resources for becoming self-reliant.
    12. Provide essential youth crisis resilience and leadership programs, to enhance youth readiness and abilities for coping with crisis-related risks and trauma.
    13. Prioritize youth educational needs during crises, including access to ICT and distant-learning facilities, and ensure equal access to interventions for girls during crises.
    14. Create a central Educational Scholarships Platform for youth to search and access information regarding application requirements, submission of applications and financial solutions for educational opportunities, in partnership with universities, foundations, corporate, and private sponsors.
    15. Record and preserve youth educational and professional data in case of crises, and developing a digital professional networking group for showcasing youth talent and job opportunities (similar to a youth LinkedIn concept).
    In presenting the ‘IIFMENA Youth Statement’, the youth participating at the conference and representing their national and social groups expressed their hope that they will be considered for formal adoption by respective governmental organisations across the MENA region.
     
  • IIFMENA 2018 Says Technology-based Development Approach is a ‘Must’

    IIFMENA 2018 Says Technology-based Development Approach is a ‘Must’

    Youth training in technology will bridge education outcomes and labour market needs

    The third edition of ‘Investing in Future’ (IIFMENA) conference in Sharjah kicked off successfully on its second day (Thursday) with impactful comments from HE Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. The minister emphasised on the lack of adoption of technology and ‘technophobia’ in the region. He reiterated that people often suffer at least a small amount of nervousness when confronted with new technology and the lack of control with the advent of new technologies. Presenting his ideas at a keynote address to open the day’s proceeds, he said: “This has led to 276 years of backwardness in this region as compared to the rest of the world”. His Excellency urged everyone to push these phobias aside and to embrace a ‘technology for future approach’. He further said: “The UAE government has a clear vision in this direction and is constantly investing in areas that will make this country a better place for future generations. We all use artificial intelligence in our daily lives in the form of Google, WhatsApp, Facebook and in various other ways, and we need to explore this further to benefit our future. Youth are the pivots of development in the world and governments and organisations are investing in them constantly. Hence, it is the duty of every individual to leave this planet in a better shape for future generations.” Taking the stage next, was HE Reem BinKaram, Director of Nama Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), who focused on a need for greater youth integration in decision making areas. She further addressed the need to develop capabilities of the youth and invest in resources that would enhance their skills. She talked about the ‘Wathba’ programme, a subsidiary of the Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating leaders and Innovators under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to develop the skills of young people aged 6-31 years, and is part of the Sharjah’s and the UAE’s dedication to supporting youth and harnessing their capabilities. Highlighting the importance of the programme, she said: “By offering young Emirati graduates the opportunity for internship and training at leading global organisations, Wathba aims to stimulate and forge partnerships with all sectors to support youth’s leadership skills and creative ideas that would be useful in the labour market. The importance of this programme is also exemplified by the fact that it will act as a bridge between education outcomes and labour market expectations.” “We were keen to launch the programme at the IIFMENA conference as our contribution to presenting a humble yet efficient example of the solutions that can be recommended and developed to face the challenges addressed at this conference,” she added. Her Excellency then highlighted how NAMA launched the ‘Girls Ambassadors for Peace’ programme in Bangladesh and Indonesia and trained a group of 62 girls in which disaster-response and management. When tsunami hit the Indonesian island in the same year, these girls boldly contributed to relief and rescue operation saving hundreds of lives. Her comments therefore highlighted the need for, “good training to address all challenges and find solutions in a real working environment”. The final views of the session came from Omar Al Busaidy, Author, Entrepreneur and a member of the US and UAE Public Affairs who focused on the importance of “humans merging with machines”. He quoted Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, who coined the term “Love Quotient” and urged everyone to teach their children to love people, the environment, their jobs and their surroundings”. Quoting Jack Ma, Busaidy thus reinforced the importance of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) along with AQ which stands for the “Agility Quotient”. He said: “How agile are you, how flexible can you be, how quick can you be to adapt in an unprecedented space? This will determine complex problem-solving skills, able management, negotiations and decision-making powers in the long run.” The session thus concluded with the thoughts that the youth needs to be geared towards training, embracing technology to generate opportunities, forging partnerships and finally integrating them in socioeconomic and developmental sectors to promote growth and stability in the region.
     
  • Jawaher Al Qasimi Calls on World Leaders and the Youth to partake at the IIFMENA Conference

    Jawaher Al Qasimi Calls on World Leaders and the Youth to partake at the IIFMENA Conference

    Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has called on youth from around the world, future leaders, experts and international organisations to extend their participation to the ‘Investing in the Future’ MENA conference (IIFMENA 2018). IIFMENA 2018 will be a global platform for engagement between the youth and world organisations to explore how collaborative action to overcome their critical challenges can be strategised and practicable solutions can be shaped to offer the region’s youth better opportunities develop their skills, build their communities and shape their future. Her Highness underscored that young people with their collective abilities and intellect hold the key to our future. We can either shape them to be instruments of peace and development, or leave them to drown in the extremism and darkness imposed by war and crises. Sheikha Jawaher has strongly called on world governments and international organisations to reach a consensus on charting a roadmap that will lead us to building a future where the rights of children are protected, and their opportunities are not compromised.
    Her Highness said: “Today, the world is faced with critical questions surrounding peace, ethics and development: Will we allow crises and conflict to shape our reality? Should we accept extremist forces taking over the world? Or should we take the initiative to claim our right to self-determination and freely determine our present, future and destiny!” The TBHF Chairperson has lauded the efforts of the United Nations and partnering organisations who continue to work relentlessly to ensure that the youth can overcome crisis to become agents of positive change, progress and development. These thought provoking statements that point us towards an aspect of human development that is currently in a state of crisis, especially in the MENA region, have been made by Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi in the run up to the IIFMENA conference, which is organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNECIF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, and Children’s Villages SOS.
    Themed ‘Youth - Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, the conference will be held on 24-25 October 2018, at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) in Sharjah, and will bring together more than 60 speakers, 500 senior officials and young experts from around the world. IIFMENA’s Message
    If nations lose their youth, they’ll become decrepit!
    Highlighting that the youth are inseparable from our vision of a future, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi said: “Sharjah hosts the IIFMENA as part of a series of cultural and humanitarian events because it seeks to enable its people play a philanthropic and developmental role to defend justice and human rights, a role that aligns with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and reflects the efforts of the UAE’s leaders who want this country to achieve excellence in all fields, particularly in philanthropy and global humanitarian action. “It is extremely difficult to alter people’s roles in society and economy without changing their conditions for the better, and providing them with incentives that will enable them to face the challenges with determination and patience. Through IIFMENA, we seek to improve the circumstances faced by the youth and their nations. “Our efforts to build a ‘tomorrow’ starts today; at this very moment. The youth’s role in leading the future depends on the care and opportunities they can be offered, and will be a direct outcome of our engagement with their needs and aspirations. The voice of young refugees who were forced out of their countries should be heard. No one understands their situation better than they do – they must be part of the solution building process. “We are dealing with the devastating consequences of youth’s exclusion and marginalisation in several countries regions worldwide. We have seen youth development initiatives that were designed for the youth but ignored their participation, and thus, failed to achieve the desired results. Youth must be the centre of every nation’s attention because if they are disillusioned or lose their sense of belonging, no one can save us from becoming decrepit.” Powerful and influential generations strive for a sense of belonging Her Highness spoke about the power and influence of the young generations of today, given their access to latest communication technologies, their awareness of latest developments worldwide, which makes them more open-minded and opinionated compared to previous generations. “The youth are at a turning point in human history! They will either strengthen bonds with preceding generations and shoulder the responsibility of development, or build a wall around them and isolate themselves from the world. The latter can never have a positive outcome. “As millions of children and youth become homeless, we should make an even greater effort to protect their identities and help them develop a sense of belonging, not only to their countries, but also to the world. It is a human duty to make these young people with very impressionable minds that the world is their homeland and the international community is their community. Everyone is working hard to integrate them, engage them and treat them equally with everybody else.” Is the world getting used to the horrendous effects of war? Her Highness addressed how the world should handle the tragedies of conflicts, wars and natural disasters. “Human beings are resilient, and sometimes, our survival instincts and capability to adapt to situations leads us to accept an unfair reality. We want the IIFMENA conference to be a wake-up call and remind the world about the catastrophic consequences of wars and conflicts, which have the worst impact on youth. “As I have said before, we will not allow crises to dictate our lives. We refuse to raise our children in this environment. Even if constantly reminding people of tragedies can hurt some people, pain is the lesser of two evils, and much better than indifference, apathy and insensibility. If we can feel the pain of others it means humanity is fine; these feelings drive us towards developing solutions to end people’s suffering, particularly the youth.”
    Refugees – not victims of crisis, but key to solutions
    HH Sheikha Jawaher has pointed out that this year’s edition of IIFMENA will highlight the need to bolster support to countries that that host victims of crises, whether refugees or immigrants, particularly because 85% of these people have fled to seek asylum in developing countries, whose healthcare resources and public infrastructure come under tremendous pressure from the population influx. “Without support, the asylum-seeking process will perpetrate more crisis and negatively impact wider regions. How can the youth enjoy their rights in a host country already facing several developmental challenges of their own? The existing residents will be fighting with the immigrant population to get their share of services and resources, which will only intensify the problem. This is the reason for growing national extremist tendencies that call for the expulsion of refugees and a failure to provide them with any form of help or support,” Her Highness observed.
    How we can support Youth 2030 agenda
    Sheikha Jawaher has commended the United Nations Strategy on Youth initiative (Youth 2030), which targets 1.8 billion young people, and also highlighted the importance of the Generation Unlimited campaign by UNECIF, which seeks to unite UN entities, the private sector, civil society organisations and the youth. She has reiterated that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are achievable only when young people can access their rights to education and equal employment opportunities, and are offered tools to harness their creative capabilities in an environment that allows free expression and liberty. The Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at UNHCR said: “Several initiatives that target the youth only focus on fulfilling market needs and are in keeping with creating job opportunities to achieve this goal, which lead to the neglect of community needs or people’s skill sets and career aspirations. This trend has become clearer than ever, particularly after the instability that has stormed the global economy. “We should learn from these mistakes and say – we do not want our youth to pursue self-realisation in isolation from their communities, and we do not want success to be only individual. This is because true personal success is reflected in a positive social impact. This is why we find that the Youth 2030 – by the focus on empowering youth and providing them with the skills of the labour market – leaves some other goals to be fulfilled. The other half is the formation of a prosperous, stable and secure future, where hunger, poverty, illiteracy and crises are eradicated, exemplified by promoting awareness among the communities on the importance of accepting and embracing young refugees as human beings, not to look consider them as transient beings whose existence is temporary, nor as a burden on society. Her Highness noted that the number of poor and hungry people worldwide increased significantly to 821 million people in 2017, pointing out that in view of these alarming numbers, we need to focus on solving humanitarian problems and on providing people’s basic needs. “We want to create generations who have a high culture of work and a long-term humanitarian perspective, not just skilled people who are qualified to do their jobs. We want doctors who can feel the pain of patients, not just think of how much money they will earn by treating them. We want skilled artisans who create their products and give them access to technologies that will help them face the challenges of food and clean water security, and increase their access to medical treatment in remote areas! If our youth won’t harness these technologies to solve pressing social problems and ensure stability in their communities, what will they harness it for?” Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher remarked.
     
  • IIFMENA 2018: Soft Skills are Key Enablers of Youth Development in the Region

    IIFMENA 2018: Soft Skills are Key Enablers of Youth Development in the Region

    Sharjah conference evaluates life skills, citizenship education, technology integration and their impact on youth education

    The third edition of the Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) conference ongoing in Sharjah, hosted a panel session today (Wednesday) titled ‘Life Skills and Citizenship Education in the Middle East and North Africa’, in partnership with UNICEF to explore innovative pathways along with traditional learning system for the development of the youth. Rethinking the focus of learning and how it can be promoted to bring back 15 million non-school going children was one of the key agendas during the discussions. Most MENA countries stand at the bottom of standardised international assessment as compared to students of other region. They are unable to achieve the same level of learning outcomes. Data from employers reveal that graduates in this region do not have the skills needed for the labour market. As a result, the region has the largest youth unemployment and a third of the graduates from universities remain unemployed. This was according to Alberto Biancoli, Education Specialist at UNICEF who said, “As a result of low-quality learning we have the highest rate of youth without education or employment and have very low participation in citizenship”. “Education is about personal empowerment in active citizenship,” he added. The panel then reflected about a new learning agenda for empowering children and youth. All panelists reiterated the need for an open learning system, that’ll provide the youth with opportunities to master life and soft skills. So, the latest challenge at hand is to develop new modes of teaching and learning. With a shift in promoting 21st century skills, schools, higher institutes and even the governments need to incorporate changing practices. Reforming the national curriculum to shift away from the traditional rote learning system to a new vision of educating is seen as a key step. But this has to be coupled with an enabling environment. Biancoli said, “We need to look at schools and communities and assess how they are interlinked. Life skills are becoming key elements for national reforms. Therefore, it is imperative to make this advocacy evidence based to see if such new methods are moving in the right direction”. Shifting focus to integrate technology to develop life skills was also high on the agenda. Hadeel Naser Aldin, Project Officer at Al Nayzak Organization in Palestine emphasised on developing creative thinking and team building skills to find solutions. Aldin noted: “These skills impact students later during employment life. They complement the market skills and help in shaping personalities”. The discussion also focused on stimulating life skills during school age that would eventually benefit the job market. Lastly, a key challenge in this direction is to establish any kind of educational setup in conflict areas. Since, children outside the formal education system is not a homogenous group with many being in varied age groups and in different crisis situations, the need for civil organisations gets heightened. Oujour Hssain, Director of Non-Formal Education, Ministry of Education of Morocco said, “How can you convince a truant to rejoin school? Therefore, alternative, vocational training becomes important. Also, an adequate curriculum needs to be developed that can be integrated along with vocational courses”. Panelists emphasised that should prepare children to leap into the future – being ready to learn, ready to be employed, ready to actively engage and to take control over their own personal growth. Therefore, the closing comments focused on the need for a parallel education system that must be effectively implemented and assessed. The third edition of the Investing tin the Future Conference (IIFMENA 2018), organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) is being held at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah, under the theme ‘Youth: Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’.
     
  • Investing in Our Youth is a Prerequisite for a Peaceful, Progressive and Sustainable Future

    Investing in Our Youth is a Prerequisite for a Peaceful, Progressive and Sustainable Future

    Opinion Piece by Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of The Big Heart Foundation

    Here’s a question that keeps me awake some nights - what will we do with advances in business, economy and technology if we do not pay attention to harnessing the capabilities of young people who will at some point be responsible for the successful functioning of their communities and the world? Are we doing enough to safeguard their basic rights to education, food, shelter, and other basic amenities? Are we making our best efforts to give them a real voice? These questions present us an opportunity to think about the issues facing young people around the globe, and especially in the MENA region where the youth crisis is perhaps the most intensified. In our minds, youth stands for dreams, innovation, and new opportunities – or simply put, the future. Yet too many of these dreams are today being thwarted. Globally, youth unemployment is three times higher than that of adults. Children and the youth face a bigger risk when displaced; they are far more vulnerable than adults when subject to violence and exploitation, physical and psychological abuse, trafficking, or when they pulled away from schools and given arms by extremists. In 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a report according to which 57 percent refugee population comprised young children including 173,800 unaccompanied and separated child refugees. These are some realties that Sharjah’s leadership, who has entrusted the emirate’s future with the youth, has committed itself to help changing. Our ambitions led us to create an international platform ‘Investing in the Future: Middle East and North Africa (IIFMENA) Conference, held in Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre, to bring the world together once every two years to tackle a specific humanitarian and development challenge in the MENA Region. The first edition of the conference hosted regional governments and international agencies to discuss ways and means to safeguard the rights and lives of refugee children and adolescents who are victims of conflicts and wars. The second edition focused on the crucial issue of the pressing need for gender equity by offering girls and women equal opportunities in society and economy. The theme of the upcoming edition on October 24–25 is ‘Youth – Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities,’ and it will be hosted by TBHF in partnership with UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and UN Women. This edition will shed the spotlight on youth-related issues with a focus on the consequences of wars, conflicts and disasters on them. The potential of a whole generation risks being wasted as the region stokes social tensions. Through the conference, we would like to highlight that youth should have the opportunity to participate in the social and economic development of their communities. We need to establish a clear mechanism to involve them in the decision-making process, harness their potentials, and ignite their leadership skills. IIFMENA will be hosting targeted discussions on how governments and private organisations can offer stronger support to countries that host victims of crises, whether refugees or immigrants, especially considering that 85% of displaced individuals have sought asylum in developing countries that are still struggling to promote their economy, infrastructure, heath, and education services.
    Youth are agents of change.
    Creating large numbers of decent jobs for young people is critical for achieving overall development objectives, from poverty reduction to better health and education. Globally, 600 million jobs will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years. Developing the youth’s employability skills will also be a core focus of the conference agenda. The expert insights in this edition will seek to offer strategic direction to the agenda of youth empowerment with a special focus on how they can be prepared and equipped to be safely returned to their homelands once conditions are normalised. When given the space and opportunity to rebuild their own communities, young people can turn their energy and creativity towards solving today’s challenges and tomorrow’s problems. International communities will need to rally efforts to be able to execute this strategy. It is our collective responsibility to ensure our youth does not feel abandoned, lost or cheated – it is in these times they are most vulnerable and have no choice but to seek an alternative environment not conducive to their own development or that of their community’s. Displacement, marginalisation and lack of opportunities are all problems that humans created for themselves. It’s time we turn these problems into long-term solutions for us, and more importantly, for our children. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the importance of tackling youth oppression and unemployment, and calls for promoting their rights in education, employment and civic engagement. Through the IIFMENA Conference this year, we seek to take this agenda by demonstrating that a common global agenda can galvanise support from many different actors – something critical to the successful promotion of the youth towards a brighter, more just future.
     
  • Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad: A Key Speaker at ‘Investing in the Future’ MENA Conference in Sharjah

    Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad: A Key Speaker at ‘Investing in the Future’ MENA Conference in Sharjah

    Young activist at the conference on 24-25 Oct to share her extraordinary story with the youth

    The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), has announced that Iraqi human rights activist and 2018 Noble Peace Prize winner, Nadia Murad, will be joining the discussions at the third edition of the Investing in the Future Conference (IIFMENA), on October 24–25, to shed light on the how the youth in the MENA region can overcome the challenges they face surrounded by war and conflict, sharing her own personal journey as she was held captive by the Islamic state for three months by the Islamic State. IIFMENA 2018, which is organised by TBHF under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Muhammad Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), is Murad’s first formal public appearance after she has become the first-ever Iraqi recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize this year for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. Themed ‘Youth – Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, the conference seeks to offer the young Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist and founder of Nadia's Initiative – dedicated to helping women and children victimised by genocide experience – a global platform to share her inspiring story with the MENA region’s youth and instill hope in the millions who struggle to stay ahead of their harsh circumstances by telling them how she transformed her sufferings into a formidable example of peaceful resistance, courage, patience and hope.

    Nadia says that receiving the Noble Peace Prize has become a symbol of inspiration for women and youth not only in the region but around the world who are victims of war, violence and brutality. She asserted that it is a strong message to the militants and fundamentalists that hostility and oppression do not stand a chance before the courage and determination of the oppressed, especially the youth. Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, said: “It is an honour to be bringing a global role model for the youth who has emerged in our region, and whose life is a reflection of what millions of youth in MENA are being subjected to. By offering her the IIFMENA platform, we aim to communicate her inspiring message to innocent women and youth who are victims of war of crises; and show them that their determination and collective strength be key to transforming their sufferings and agony into triumph and a hope-filled future. Nadia is an example to everyone.” Al Hammadi underscored that she hopes to see many international organisations and entities shed light on the stories of other brave heroes like Nadia and promote their extraordinary stories globally, stimulating people to raise their voice against injustice and oppression. They highlighted that those stories are a source of inspiration not only to war victims, but to all those who seek to overcome their hardships, no matter how difficult. “Nadia’s presence at IFFMENA is a big success in furthering our objective to make the region’s youth’s voice heard, offer them a platform to meet leading rights advocates, international experts, state entities and NGOs, and share their challenges as well as their vision about the future and the ways they aim to shape it,” Al Hammadi concluded. In September 2016, Nadia Murad was appointed as the first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), defending the rights of 1,300 Yazidi women were still captives by ISIS. Her inspiring memoir The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State (Little, Brown Book Group: New York, 2017) takes us from her peaceful childhood in a remote village in Iraq through loss and brutality to safety in Germany. Presently, Nadia and her team are focused on the Sinjar region of Iraq through the foundation’s newly created Sinjar Action Fund. More information is available on the below link: link to https://nadiasinitiative.org
     
  • IIFMENA 2018 Presents Expert Insights on Making the Region More Sensitive to Needs of Young Women

    IIFMENA 2018 Presents Expert Insights on Making the Region More Sensitive to Needs of Young Women

    Panel discussion organised with key partner NAMA-UN Women

    Social norms and practices hindering young women from reaching their potential in MENA was highlighted as one of the main impediments to the region’s developmental aspirations, at a panel discussion organised today (Wednesday) – the inaugural day of the third edition of the Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) conference, currently underway in Sharjah. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness, Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, the biennial IIFMENA event focuses on humanitarian and development challenges in the MENA region. Based on the theme for this edition, ‘Youth - Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, the session named ‘Social Norms and Practices Hindering Young Women Reaching their Potential’, organised in partnership with NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and UN Women, shed light on the plight of women in the region and around the world as they continue to face discrimination at various levels – social, economic and political – and stressed that young women are even more marginalised in areas affected by war and crisis. Moderating the session was Senior Advisor for UN Women in the GCC, Ms Nicolla Hewitt. Joining her on the panel were Dr AlAnoud Al Sharekh, Researcher on Youth and Gender Demographics; Ms Tanu Priya Uteng, Senior Researcher, Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo, Norway; and Reem Aslan, Women Labour Rights Activist, Gender, Management and International Development Expert. Ms. Hewitt opened the session by discussing empowerment and the need for women to have the same opportunities as men. “Since the late 1980s we have been talking about women’s empowerment, and despite technological advancements, we are still having to discuss equal rights for women. This has to change,” she said. Hewitt then outlined the ‘Seven pillars of women’s empowerment’, which espouse the following: To establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality; to treat all women and men fairly at work - respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination; to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all male and female workers; to promote education, training and professional development for women; to implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women; to promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy; and, measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender. The above would prove essential for gender equality, added Hewitt. Panelist Aslan spoke about Jordan’s recent success in promoting women’s economic rights in the country – a move that led to several amendments to its draft labour law, including the introduction of a two-day paternity leave for fathers, ensuring that workplace owners establish daycare for their employees if the total number children their employees have exceeds 15, and introduce pay parity laws. She said: “This success was an outcome of social dialogue, community organising, listening sessions, family economics, data and research.” The introduction of flexible working arrangements, shared jobs and compressed weeks, and also aiding women’s reintroduction into employment, following time off due to childbirth were highlighted as being essential in a country’s infrastructure that can be called fair and equal. Dr Al Sharekh presented the Kuwaiti experience, saying her aim is to run a longer conversation on violence against women in the country and give them better representation in society, governance and economy. “When it comes to Kuwaiti women, more women in governmental positions are needed. We need more women in politics. We need more women in decision-making positions. We need to challenge the notion that a woman’s place is in the home,” she said. Transportation and planning development was also highlighted as an area that needs to be addressed when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. “What kinds of mobility needs do women have? What are the limitations they face with time constraints? This all needs to be taken into consideration if we are to see women fully-integrated into society, with the same opportunities being made to both women and men,” Ms Uteng remarked. The session concluded with Ms Hewitt quoting Nobel Prize laureate and advocate Malala Yousafzai: “I raise up my voice - not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard...we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” The two-day conference that concludes on Thursday (Oct 25), is organised by Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), with key partners, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), UN Women, and SOS Children’s Villages, and aims to recognise youth as agents of change in peace and recovery processes.
     
  • Sultan Al Qasimi: We can make peace and prosperity the reality for future generations

    Sultan Al Qasimi: We can make peace and prosperity the reality for future generations

    Sharjah Ruler opens third edition of Investing in the Future conference in Sharjah

    The third edition of ‘Investing in Future’ (IIFMENA) conference has got off to an impactful start today (Wednesday) with comments from His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah; Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF); Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF; recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nadia Murad, and other senior dignitaries on how the international community must reintegrate efforts to alleviate 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. Addressing the 3,000 attendees at the opening ceremony, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi 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 allows them the right opportunities to build their futures. We can make peace and prosperity the reality for future generations.” His Highness Sheikh Sultan added: “IIFMENA will explore the best ways to promote short-term and long-term rehabilitation and promotion of 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 focusing on protecting youth interests and find the best practicable solutions for their problems.” Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi thanked and welcomed participants through a recorded message. She said: “It is time to invest 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.” Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher added: “I pay special tribute to all young people here. This conference is your 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. She said: “Welcome to the UAE and to Sharjah, which harnesses 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 becoming an incubator of youth and their ambitions. “We meet to translate TBHF’s vision to support victims of crises and poverty, and bring together the youth, decision-makers, international organisation and civil society representatives to make their challenges the foundation of this two-day dialogue. We are all here to develop the vision and insight that will serve as inputs to creating practical and tangible solutions, enabling governments and allied organisations to be more effective in handling the region’s crises by being more sensitive to the needs of its youngest victims.”

    After Al Hammadi’s address, all heads turned towards Murad, the young Yazidi woman from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, who was held as a sex slave by ISIS. IIFMENA 2018 is her first public appearance after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. The 25-year-old activist said: “I share the Nobel Peace Prize not only with my co-recipient, Dr. Mukwege, but with the Yazidi community, Iraqis, Kurds, and all persecuted minorities and victims of sexual violence around the world. I recently committed to donating 100% of my Nobel Peace Prize money to the SAF, but a single prize, and a single person cannot accomplish these goals. I stand before you today to call on all governments and non-governmental organizations to join us in our efforts. If we are united in this fight, we can make a difference.

    “Rebuilding and protecting minorities is a choice. The global community can make the right choice! Let humanity unite us. For hope and humanity is the choice we can give our children – it is what our children deserve.” The high-level opening also heard from HE Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills; HE Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League; and HE Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development. Aboul Gheit highlighted the role of leveraging communication technologies to empower youth and equip them to take on future challenges and opportunities. He said: “The most important issue facing society today is the youth, and the biggest 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. “The education, culture and media institutions in the region have a duty to help youth to cope with and understand today’s era. They must arm them with information and awareness, and help them with ideas related to education. So many youth today are not ready for failure, they are not prepared to try more than once to overcome their challenges.” Gheit spoke about the importance for more science programmes in the region, and the need for improved science literacy, for greater education relating to climate change and AI. He also said that education systems in the region need to do more in years of early education to build the youth’s patriotism. “Knowing the Arabic language and history is key in our culture,” he added.

    HE Hessa Buhumaid remarked: “The UAE’s National Committee’s strategy for 2030 focuses on youth; how to improve their lives and hand them better opportunities. The recent government summit has encouraged the youth to participate in decision-making activities. It has also opened the way for 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 the conference’s fitting venue in Sharjah, the ‘education destination’, Al Falasi 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 HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE 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.” 60 speakers, 600 senior officials, diplomats, rights advocates and experts, and young representatives of the SOS Children’s Villages and other youth organisations are partaking in IIFMENA 2018 organised by TBHF, a global humanitarian body dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide. Themed ‘Youth: Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’ the two-day conference will run its course at the Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre (JRCC) in Sharjah. The opening ceremony today (Wednesday) was inaugurated with a video that encapsulated the achievements of the past two editions of the conference, which were dedicated to the protection of child refugees and to the empowering women in society and economy through equal opportunities. The two-day IIFMENA 2018 conference is organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a global humanitarian body dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide. It is being held in partnership with the United Nations and other local affiliates, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his Wife, HH Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF.
     
  • Youth-led Discussions Take Centre Stage at IIFMENA Conference

    Youth-led Discussions Take Centre Stage at IIFMENA Conference

    Three engaging panel discussions highlight how they can be leading agents of change

    The second and final day of the Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) Conference hosted a group of young representatives of international organisations, human rights activists and social activists in three sessions that discussed the role of youth in combating climate change issues, offered a platform for strengthening youth participation in MENA’s development, and also heard from inspiring voices who are building pioneering models of future development and growth. Organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) in collaboration with several UN agencies and NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA) under the theme ‘Youth - Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, the two-day conference has played a key role in gathering young representatives of youth refugee groups, minorities, decision-makers, government and international officials and offered them a platform to exchange insights and reach innovative and more youth-sensitive solutions to help overcome pressing challenges being faced by the future generation of MENA. A session titled ‘Youth and Climate Change’, featured Mr Barney Swan, International Director, Climate Force, and young Emirati environmental activist Ameera Al Marzooqi who drew from the personal experiences and activities in the field to encourage youth participation in averting the detrimental effects of environmental degradation by sensitising them towards their responsibilities towards their communities and the world at large.

    The second session focused on inspiring, influencing and empowering youth. The stage was taken by an all-girl student team from Pakistan who have successfully built a single-seater race car. This ten-member team from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Islamabad, built the formula car for the Student Formula Competition that witnessed student teams from across the globe in contention. The team called ‘AUJ’ built the car without any mechanical engineer in the ensemble. The members were from different disciplines that included electrical engineers, industrial designers and members from business management. Wardah Jamal, a student member on the team said the biggest challenge was that they were an all girls’ team in a male-dominated industry where motor sport is practically non-existent. Overcoming hurdles like lack of funds, logistics and prior experience their determination was undaunting. Adding to Wardah’s comments, a second member of the team, Azka Athar said: “Another challenge that we faced was the gap between theoretical knowledge and useable terms in the industry when we went to make purchases for the car parts to the local vendors in Pakistan. We also had issues with paperwork and shipping the car finally to the UK for the competition.” Sabah Zaman, the driver of the AUJ Rally said that to her the joy of driving a car that they had made with their own hands was inexpressible. Their invention competing against international competitors won the RACE TECH Spirit of FS Award - Formula Student 2018. Another session titled ‘Youth-led Discussion: Youth Participation in MENA Development’, organised in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages, saw representatives from the Youth Advisory Council, United World Colleges, United Lebanon Youth Project and UN Youth Assembly share the results from their recent four-day counsel, where they discussed the action needed by youth in the MENA region to affect change. Moderating the session was the Managing Director of SOS Children’s Villages International, Gulf Area Office, Ms. Jumana Abu-Hannoud, who started the discussion by asking the panel what are the biggest challenges facing youth in the MENA region today? The consensus: education. What subjects should I choose to study at university? Did I make the right subject choice? Will my education help me in my career? These were shared concerns by youth across MENA.

    And while it was recognized that youth has a collective strength in the region, there is a lack of direction and belief that they can be the point of change. The panel identified a resolve by creating one common platform for all Arab youth, where opportunities can be shared, solutions sought, and action plans implemented. The need for NGOs to give their support to youth in the MENA region was another key talking point, with the panel calling for more opportunities for their ideas to be heard in the professional arena. The session closed with the panel reiterating the shared energy of the counsel, vowing to strive forward and make the necessary changes to give youth in the region a voice. “It’s time for youth to develop a sense of responsibility. It’s time for youth in the MENA region to stop saying ‘I’ and start saying ‘We’,” the youth representatives unanimously concluded.
     
  • IIFMENA to Explore the Role of Youth Engagement in Regional Development

    IIFMENA to Explore the Role of Youth Engagement in Regional Development

    With key conference partners UNHCR, UNICEF, UNDP, NAMA and UN Women

    Mariam Al Hammadi: At the core of Sharjah’s and TBHF’s developmental objectives is improving youth protection, education and employability regionally and globally, and investing in their unlimited potential. The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), organiser of the third edition of the Investing in the Future, Middle East and North Africa (IIFMENA) conference, has announced its key partners: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and UN Women. The conference is held every two years to tackle a specific humanitarian and developmental challenge in the region in line with Sharjah’s vision and strategy to sustainably develop social and economic landscapes of the UAE and the region. This year, the unique two-day international event, themed “Youth:Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities” is dedicated to throwing the spotlight on how governments, civil society, international organisations, academia, and private sector can collaborate and engage the region’s youth more effectively in consultative, policy and decision-making processes, enabling a more inclusive and participatory approach to tackling challenges and offering practical, scalable solutions.

    Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), said: “The MENA region’s youth still face considerable obstacles in becoming a driving force for social and economic development in their countries. At the core of Sharjah’s and TBHF’s developmental objectives is improving youth protection, education and employability regionally and globally, and investing in their unlimited potential. Therefore, IIFMENA 2018 is convening leading international advocates, influencers and policymakers on one platform to focus on strategising practical solutions that can be applied across the MENA region to tackle existing challenges, leaving no one behind. With our key partners at this edition, IIFMENA will host important discussions, which will hopefully lead to concrete steps that will further the objectives of the United Nations Youth Strategy 2030 and achieve greater participation of youth in the march towards a better future.” Each of IIFMENA’s partners will be hosting key discussions and debates during the two-day event, on 24–25 October in Sharjah, on a range of pertinent issues like conflict and peacebuilding, education, economic empowerment, citizenship, social media, climate change, etc., with the aim of devising region-specific solutions and influencing youth policy decision-making.

    The UNHCR will be leading a discussion on ‘Youth in Conflict & Peacebuilding’.. Among the many communities in the MENA region that are disrupted by conflict or impoverishment, opportunities for youth can be severely limited. Recent political and demographic factors have exposed the vulnerability of many segments of the civilian population in the MENA region. . This platform will highlight UNHCR’s core principles which include protection, diversity, equity, access, and sustainability that are utilised to work with youth in areas affected by conflict or displacement. This is in line with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), which focuses on easing pressure on host countries, enhancing refugee self-reliance, expanding options to third country solutions, and supporting solutions in the country of origin. UNICEF will be discussing ‘Life Skills and Citizenship Education as a New Learning Agenda’. This panel highlights the learning paradox that hampers the region’s youth; from having highly educated youth as well as high youth unemployment, increased inequities, and multiple challenges to social cohesion. Clearly, the education system isn’t catering to the real needs of the world where it should prepare youth to garner the needed skills towards developing their full civic potential and improving the well-being of their communities.. This panel will not only provide a UNICEF perspective but bring to attention what life skills mean and how education systems can implement them at the core of learning. Organised by the UNDP and titled ‘Youth Entrepreneurship as a Catalyst for Growth and Employment’, this session highlights the need to create conditions which are conducive to youth entrepreneurs. If the right investments and decisions are made, the youth population can be a powerful and transformative force for a better world. Youth entrepreneurship is an imperative force of socio-economic and sustainable development that will have beneficial effects for people of all ages, across societies, and economies.

    UN Women and Sharjah based NAMA will organize, ‘Opportunities and challenges of young women in the MENA region.’ The panel highlights social norms and practices that hinder women in the community while emphasizing the importance of building a collective enabling environment and ecosystem involving men and women. With the rapid change in labour markets and the openness of the world, many practices, norms and customs threaten young women’s progress, and limit their accessibility to opportunities. Working with males in male dominant decision-making communities would be an effective tool to increase male support to females within their families and communities. IIFMENA is organised by the UAE-based global humanitarian organisation, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), which was established in 2015 by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.
     
  • IIFMENA Presents Ways to Integrate Region’s Young Refugees in Peacebuilding Efforts

    IIFMENA Presents Ways to Integrate Region’s Young Refugees in Peacebuilding Efforts

    Discussions focus on forming advocacy coalitions to diminish donor fatigue in refugee support programmes

    The third edition of the Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) conference under its banner ‘Youth - Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, has witnessed key solutions to integrate refugee youth with the help of education to become useful citizens for themselves and for their host countries, at a panel discussion titled ‘Youth in Conflict & Peacebuilding’, held on the first day of the conference (Wednesday) with a key conference partner, UNHCR. Continuous war and tumultuous political situations have exposed the youth to unprecedented vulnerabilities in the MENA region. For many of them, seeking asylum with extremist organisations who lure them with a better future has only been the way forward. Speaking at the panel was Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Affey, UNHCR Special Envoy, who emphasised the role of media in galvanising support for these displaced groups. He said: “When these conflicts become protracted, the media shifts its focus”. He further added: “80 million people are displaced by circumstances, not by choice. Half the refugee population is below the age of 18. Therefore, the first solution is to educate this population. If you don’t educate them, they become hopeless and dangerous.” Abidi emphasised on the need to invest heavily on education for this population so that in future they can contribute to the host countries as well. He further said, “Give them skills in the form of education that will help them become useful citizens.” One of the other findings during the session was that international communities like UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) need to understand that they have to support host countries who often suffer from underfunding. Adequate monetary support to governments of host countries will lead to increased asylum space for refugees. Additionally, they need to be integrated while designing national plans. All panelists concurred that the UAE is one of the most generous donors in terms of official contributions. Globally, only one percent goes towards conflict resolution. Simon O’Connell, Executive Director of Mercy Corps emphasised on promoting social cohesion. He said: “There is a need to address grievances. Second, humanitarian organisations need to strengthen governance and finally, to prioritise youth in providing growth opportunities.” The session addressed that on one hand there is fragility and greater disparity, and on the other, there are greater opportunities and more mobility now. Opportunity through technology can be used to build a social fabric that will promote sustainable growth. Connell added: “In many vulnerable states adolescent girls are financially active, and we should try to stimulate financial literacy in such areas. That’s how you get sustainable, lasting transformational change.” Speaking at the event was also Chaker Khazaal – once himself a refugee – and a reporter now who summoned philanthropic organisations to highlight the creative work done by refugee populations. He said, “Change the narrative of anger and hate. Our former generations were refugees at some point or the other. It’s a common suffering that one goes through, so let’s eliminate the negativity from this narrative. Let it be replaced by human hope”. The session concluded with an aim of charting an effective road map for investing in the future of youth around the world, and specifically in the MENA region. The two-day IIFMENA 2018 conference is organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a global humanitarian body dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide. It is being held in partnership with the United Nations and other local affiliates, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his Wife, HH Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF.
     
  • IIFMENA 2018 Encourages Youth to Use Social Media to Create Awareness and Bring Positive Change

    IIFMENA 2018 Encourages Youth to Use Social Media to Create Awareness and Bring Positive Change

    At panel discussion organised in partnership with UNHCR

    The theme of bolder efforts to incorporate technology to benefit the region’s development agenda continued after the opening remarks on the second day of the ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA 2018) conference, in Sharjah, where using social media to create awareness of social issues was brought to focus on the first panel discussion titled ‘Youth, Social Media and Creating Positive Change’. Based on the theme of the third edition, ‘Youth - Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, the session organised in partnership with UNHCR, focused on the role of social media influencers when it comes to highlighting the plight of refugees and what are the outcomes of such exposure when tackling the growing refugee crisis in the MENA region. Moderating the session was the Head of UNHCR’s Private Sector Partnerships, MENA, Houssam Chahine. Joining him on the panel were Motivational Speaker and Social Media Influencer, Zainab Eqabi, Journalist Chaker Khazaal and Social Media Activist, Promoting Health Awareness, Dr. Ahmed Abumalik. Chahine opened the session by asking the panelists about the role of influencers when it comes to raising awareness about social issues, in particular the current refugee crisis. Eqabi referred to her first UNHCR mission to the UK, saying: “I was personally very affected by my visit to the UK. You get a reality check. Despite the very difficult family situations, life goes on. This helps you to share the story.” Eqabi continued that despite people knowing about the very challenging conditions facing refugees, generally, people are feeling less empathy towards them. “People are getting used to refugees,” she said. “But it is an important social story that needs to be shared; I tried to raise awareness of the daily struggles facing refugees through social media.” Fellow panelist Khazaal echoed Eqabi’s comments. A refugee himself, he left Lebanon and moved to Canada, before moving to the US. Khazaal explained how many of his social media followers in the West did not even understand what a refugee was. As a journalist, he is now able to educate them and highlights “their humanity” and presents them to his audience as human beings; people not to be feared.

    “Anyone at any time can become a refugee,” he said.
    The positive outcome that results in creating awareness through social media fundamentally allows for refugees and the most needy people in society to get the help they most desperately need. Speaking about his recent aid visit to a refugee camp in Bangladesh, Dr. Abumalik spoke about how, in the poorest of areas, there are 1.4 million inhabitants in just one camp. “They had no healthcare, no education. The situation was bad. How do you keep people well when they have nothing? Sharing details of conditions such as this via social media not just allows for greater exposure but also fundraising efforts,” he said. When it comes to social media bringing about positive change, Eqabi looks to the young generation. “We want to raise awareness and use this awareness to be able to move away from this current [refugee] reality. Youth are the leaders of the future. We need to influence them, so they can carry on this great work [and bring about positive change] in the future.” “We have a lot of suffering in the world,” Khazaal added. “68.5 million people are currently displaced in the world; this shouldn’t be the case.” To conclude, panelists reiterated the importance of being aware of our core social responsibility and said that we need to leave behind a world better than the one we are currently living in – a goal that must be shared with the youth.

    The two-day conference that concludes on today (Thursday), is organised by Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), with key partners, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), UN Women, and SOS Children’s Villages. It is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness, Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, the biennial IIFMENA event focuses on humanitarian and development challenges in the MENA region.
     
  • Ruler of Sharjah to Open ‘Investing in the Future’ Conference Tomorrow (Wednesday)

    Ruler of Sharjah to Open ‘Investing in the Future’ Conference Tomorrow (Wednesday)

    600 international officials, experts and youth meet to discuss youth opportunities in the MENA region

    In the presence and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed al Qasimi, Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), UNHCR Emiment Advocate for Refugee Children and Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (TBHF), the third edition of the ‘Investing in the Future’ international conference (IIFMENA 2018) is to be launched tomorrow (Wednesday) at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah. Held under the theme ‘Youth - Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, the conference is organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based international humanitarian body, the event focuses on humanitarian and development challenges in the MENA region. This year’s edition will highlight youth-related issues in the MENA region, especially those that emerge from war, conflict and natural disasters, and will bring together senior officials, and experts from the UAE and beyond to discuss remedies centring on the role of youth and how they can be more actively involved in the process. The conference will witness a high-level opening on Wednesday (Oct 24) with a keynote address from His Highness Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi. Over the two days of the event, the IIFMENA platform will be shared by youth figures like Nobel Laureate, Nadia Murad, top diplomat Ahmed Abu Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League; and senior UAE officials like His Excellency Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence; and, Dr. Al Anoud Al Sharekh, Researcher on youth and gender demographics. IIFMENA’s two-day agenda will shine the spotlight on ways governments, civil society, international organisations, academia, private sector can collaborate to involve the region’s youth more effectively in consultative, policy- and decision-making processes, enabling a more inclusive and participatory approach to tackling challenges and offering practical, scalable solutions.

    Keynote Speakers:
    The conference will host top Emirati leaders to focus on youth empowerment issues. The speakers include: Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council and TBHF’s Humanitarian Envoy, Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills in the UAE, HE Hessa bint Eisa Bu Humaid, Minister of Community Development, HE Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and Board Member of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation and Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan bin Khalid Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Government Relations Department and Chairman of the Higher Committee for Digital Transformation in Sharjah

    Day 1 (Oct 24) discussions
    The first day’s discussion agenda will cover crucial themes in crisis management and youth development that IIFMENA will host with its key partners. These discussions include the topics, ‘Youth in Conflict & Peacebuilding’ (organising partner: UNHCR); ‘Youth Entrepreneurship as a Catalyst for Growth and Employment’ (organising partner: UNDP); ‘Social Norms and Practices Hindering Young Women Reaching their Potential’ (organising partner: Nama-UN Women); and finally, ‘Life Skills and Citizenship Education in the Middle East and North Africa…a New Learning Agenda for a New Generation’ (organising partner: UNICEF).

    Day 2 (Oct 25) discussions
    The second day of IIFMENA 2018 will bring to the fore the aspect of youth participation in developmental challenges through specific discussions on ‘Youth Social Media and Creating Positive Change’; ‘Youth and Climate Change’; ‘Inspirational Session – Rally Team’; and conclude with a ‘Youth-led discussion – Youth Participation in MENA Development (organising partner: SOS Children’s Villages).

    The conference also aims to recognise youth as agents of change in peace and recovery processes. There is a need for a youth responsive development approach in addition to the need to adopt a coordinated effort in peacebuilding planning. 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. Individuals and organisations interested to attend in this edition of the IIFMENA conference can register on http://iifmena.org The conference is a significant step in bringing the world together on one platform to discuss issues of importance and inspire positive change.
     
  • IIFMENA Highlights Importance of Better Youth Engagement in Sustainable Development Goals

    IIFMENA Highlights Importance of Better Youth Engagement in Sustainable Development Goals

    Through discussions featuring a mix of youth development organisations, local youth entities and rights activities, and big corporations

    The third ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA 2018) conference has hosted a dozen side panels during the two-day event (24-25 Oct) to identify global youth issues, discussed their effective engagement in the sustainable development process, told young delegates about the power of social entrepreneurship, shed light on youth employment and enhancing capabilities of youth and children through Public-Private Partnerships, and, finally, promote Six side panels by local and international organisations were held yesterday (Oct 25), the final day of the conference, which was organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), the global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide. The first session featured CARE, a major international humanitarian agency that concentrates its efforts to eradicate poverty, save lives and achieve social justice. It highlighted its regional experience in establishing CARE’s Regional Applied Learning Hub in MENA. The session highlighted the importance of social entrepreneurship and its role in community development. The panel aimed to inspire and equip session participants with more tested and piloted evidence about the power of and influence social entrepreneurship in crisis and fragile settings through CARE’s programming in the field. Hiba Tibi, a CARE International representative highlighted examples of inspiring young women from regions suffering from conflicts and crises who succeeded in helping their families by establishing small enterprises with the help of CARE foundation. Tibi illustrated that CARE focuses on two tenets; the first of which is the assessment of the market capacity to meet the needs of people in areas of conflict and disputes, while second is the need to integrate humanitarian interventions with economic development. She underlined the important role social entrepreneurship plays in meet people’s needs in times of conflict.

    Youth Employment - Challenges and Recommendations
    The panel titled ‘Youth Employment: Challenges and Recommendations’ was organised by the Rubu' Qarn - Foundation for Creating Future Leaders and Innovators, chaired by Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi. It encouraged young people to participate in the parliamentary and public life and engage through the Shura Council. The panel focused on promoting the awareness of youths about sustainable development goals and their importance in addressing the challenges of poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and climate change, as well as the role of sustainable development in achieving prosperity, peace and justice.

    Sustainable Development Workshop
    A Pictionary workshop called ‘Global Sustainable Development Goals’ was presented by the Sharjah Youth Council. Through this interactive and creative activity, the need to enhance capacities of the youth in achieving development goals was highlighted. Nada Abdullah Al Turaifi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Youth Council, touched on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly to ensure the improvement of development in view of the new challenges facing all countries across the world. She noted that 193 countries, including the UAE, share these goals. Al Turaifi urged young participants to suggest and innovative ideas that would ensure better community life.

    Challenges in Nurturing Youth Talent for Energy Industry
    The Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) conducted a session titled ‘The Challenges in Nurturing Youth Talent for Energy Industry’ that saw the engagement of Iman Al Qasimi, ENOC group HR Director, Mohammed Bin Ali, Director of Excellence at SEWA, and Dr. Ali Awadh Al Amoudi, Goodwill Ambassador of the Arab African Council on Socio-Economic Development. The session, moderated by Shamma Al Falasi, Director of Corporate Identity and Partnerships at ENOC, addressed the importance of supporting young national talent in the era of digitisation and engaging them in achieving the UAE Energy Plan 2050 and Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050. A number of questions were raised during the session. How can we nurture the next generation of talents for the industry? What are the current challenges? How can the industry foster stronger academic links with future professions, and how can we attract national talent to the energy sector?

    Youth Beyond Boundaries
    The fifth panel discussion titled ‘Youth beyond Boundaries’, organised by the Ministry of Education, highlighted the experiences by three young men, namely Obaid Adel Albeh, Shahad Al Bloushi and Ahmed Al Kaabi, who participated in the ministry’s initiative ‘The Ambassadors of Knowledge’. The ambassadors of knowledge introduced the audience to the initiative, which aims to define the most important youth issues. They spoke about their abroad visits to some countries, and the innovations they made.

    Role of Youth in the Sustainable Development Agenda
    The sixth panel was presented by environmental activist Kehkashan Basu, UN Youth Ambassador and the winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize who highlighted the role of youth in sustainable development and shared her experience as an international environmental and sustainability activist. The 18-year-old youth leader highlighted how she empowers young people worldwide through her organisation, Green Hope Foundation, using ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) as a transformative tool. Basu sets a strong example for the youth through her dedicated work in areas of children's rights, gender equality, climate change and social empowerment. IIFMENA 2018 was held under the theme ‘Youth: Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’, in partnership with UNHCR, UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women and NAMA Women Advancement Establishment.
     
  • Mariam Al Hammadi: Investing in the Future Conference (IIFMENA) Addresses Challenges that Youth Faces in View of the Growing Number of Refugees and Victims of Poverty

    Mariam Al Hammadi: Investing in the Future Conference (IIFMENA) Addresses Challenges that Youth Faces in View of the Growing Number of Refugees and Victims of Poverty

    Studies conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicated that 175 million young people worldwide can’t play an effective role in their communities for many reasons ranging from illiteracy, poverty, marginalization, and discrimination. 600 million young people live in countries devastated by conflicts and wars, 25 million of whom are unemployed in the Arab world, and the number is anticipated to rise further to 80 million. These figures reflect the dangerous and negative impact on the economy and communities all around the world. The sheer volume of the financial and developmental losses that are caused by unemployment and labour exploitation of refugee youth are immense. At the same time, the findings of these statistics underscore the importance of enabling solutions to help those who are affected by poverty, conflicts, crises and natural disasters. In response to such serious challenges, The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) is organizing the third edition of Investing in the Future Conference (IIFMENA) 24, 25 October in Sharjah, under the theme ‘Youth: Crisis Challenges and Development Opportunities’. In an exclusive interview with Al Khaleej Newspaper, Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, addressed the theme of IIFMENA this year. “In collaboration with the United Nations and entities under its umbrella, TBHF is responding to the challenges that face youth in the MENA region, such as the increase in the rate of poverty, numbers of refugees, and victims of conflict and disasters, and the negative consequences of those situations including the unemployment and the exclusion of younger generation from the development process. We believe that in order for the world to achieve inclusive development, all segments of the community have to be truly included in social and economic action,” she said. Al Hammadi stressed that each year the objectives of the conference exemplify the cultural approach of the Emirate of Sharjah and aligns with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and Wife of His Highness, Her Highness Sheikha Jawahar bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF, Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    “This approach enables us to be fully aware of the negative consequences that impact communities as a result of the growing youth unemployment rates. This results from youth deprivation of basic needs such as education and healthcare. Studies by the Global Employment Trends for Youth 2017 predicts that unemployed youth around the world will increase to 71 million in 2018. United Nations agencies indicate that the number of refugees and displaced persons will rise to 68.5 million worldwide, which will further increase unemployment,” she added. “The theme of the conference emphasizes the importance of this philanthropic event and anticipates effective decisions and recommendations. TBHF’s efforts are aimed at stressing the benefits of empowering young people, as well as giving them the opportunity to play their role in their communities to build a better future, in an effective partnership that will accelerate the process of social and economic development.” Al Hammadi noted that IIFMENA conference will ensure that the recommendations and programs on youth empowerment are incorporated into international policies, initiatives, and action plans. It will also warrant that the participants will focus on realizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), through fulfilling the requirements of harnessing youth’s capabilities, such as providing them with decent education and care and support. “Sharjah’s focus, through this edition of the conference, is not only on addressing the challenges that young people face, but also on developing practical mechanisms and multi-phase programmes that comprise of effective solutions. Sharjah is communicating a message to the international community stating that young people who are victims of exceptional circumstances are more aware than others of the importance of success and development,” she underscored. “At TBHF, we are part and parcel of the humanitarian system, and Sharjah has become a prominent example of it. Hosting IIFMENA in the emirate is aimed at instigating the theme of the conference into a tangible reality and implementing its decisions and recommendations through the development of clear mechanisms and practical timeline programmes that are followed-up and accessed in conjunction with the humanitarian role of the UAE,” she added. “When young people’s suffering is studied closely, we find that conflicts, wars and natural disasters are not the only reasons. The lack of awareness of the importance of harnessing the capabilities of young people in the development process can be detrimental. IIFMENA will address the best ways of positively harnessing the energy and power of young people from around the world and transform them into agents of positive change and development,” she noted.

    Independent cadres 1
    The UAE is an example to be followed: ‘Investing in The Future’ conference aims at providing policy makers with a set of recommendations that guides them on the development of effective plans and strategies to enable refugees and displaced youths to manage challenges. As 50 per cent of the population in the UAE is young and given that youth are the driving force of the future, Sharjah and the UAE adopted several strategies and plans to empower them with the necessary leadership skills and engage them in the development process. Youths are vital human capital that should be consulted. Seven new ministers whose average age is 38 years, have been appointed, five of which are women. With the aim to promote youth’s political engagement, Saeed Saleh Al Rumaithi, has been appointed as a member of the UAE Federal National Council at the age of 31 only. Al Rumaithi is the Council’s youngest member and one of the most promising national cadres. The measures taken by the UAE, and Sharjah in particular, through humanitarian organizations, such as the ‘Big Heart Foundation’ (TBHF), reflects a strong commitment to support people in distress, improve the lives of vulnerable families, and alleviate their suffering. The activities curated are not only restricted to providing immediate aid or mobilizing international support, but also to offer sustainable solutions that enable afflicted peoples and refugees, especially youngsters, to participate in the development of their communities and the host countries.

    Independent Cadre 2:
    Developmental Aid: The amount of developmental aid and support delivered by the UAE throughout decades reflects its dedication to play a critical role in providing sustainable solutions, through contributions to the enhancement of development in developing countries and other countries affected by war UAE’s total developmental contributions in 2017 was AED 19.32 billion (USD 5.26 billion), more than half (54%) of which was non-refundable grants, aimed at supporting the development plans implemented in beneficiary countries. UAE’s development assistance reached 147 countries, 40 of which are the least developing countries in the world. Asia received the lion’s share with 43% of development aid worth AED 8.28 billion, while Africa came second receiving 28% of development assistance with AED 5.88 billion. Yemen received an unparalleled support from UAE, estimated at AED 2.97 billion, which is more than third of Asia’s share, to help alleviate the suffering of Yemeni people and support the humanitarian and development needs in many fields.

    Infographic:
    Young people are estimated to account for over 35 per cent of the unemployed population worldwide in 2017.
    The youth unemployment rate is 13.1 per cent globally in 2017.
    The estimated figure of 70.9 million unemployed youth in 2017 is an important improvement from the crisis peak of 76.7 million in 2009.
    The number is expected to rise by a further 200,000 in 2018, reaching a total of 71.1 million.
    In 2017, the global rate of young women’s labour force participation is 16.6 percentage points lower than that of young men.
    Globally, the female NEET rate is 34.4 per cent, compared to 9.8 per cent for males.
    Source: Global Employment Trends for Youth 2017 39 per cent of young workers in the emerging and developing world – 160.8 million youth – live in moderate or extreme poverty, i.e. on less than $3.10 a day.
    three out of four employed young women and men are in informal employment, compared to three in five for adults. If we look at developing countries, this ratio is as high as 19 out of 20 for young women and men.
    The Middle East and North Africa regions continue to show by far the highest youth unemployment rates (28.2 and 30.5 per cent, respectively, in 2014).
    31 per cent of youth in low-income countries have no education qualifications at all, compared to 6 per cent in lower middle-income countries and 2 per cent in upper middle-income countries.
    Working poverty affects as many as 169 million youth in the world. The number increases to 286 million if the near poor are included (living below US$4 per day).
    Source: International Labour Organization
     
  • “Investing in The Future” highlights the impact of crises in widening the gap between the available competencies and labour market

    “Investing in The Future” highlights the impact of crises in widening the gap between the available competencies and labour market

    The 2008 financial crisis widened the gap between youth and the labour market. While the world was busy innovating solutions, political conflicts and environmental crises have further aggravated the situation. Newer mechanisms are required where youth can engage in the design and implementation of solutions, by integrating them into the international and local organizations who are responsible for deciding on development tools and goals.

    Under the theme “Youth: crisis challenges and development opportunities”, Sharjah is hosting this year’s edition of IIFMENA on October 24th, organized by The Big Heart Foundation in partnership with the UNHCR, UNDP, UNICEF, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and UN Women. The conference will bring together a large number of Arab youths to listen to decision makers and express their opinions and point of views regarding the design and implementation of the solutions, and how to ensure youth integration into society and the labor market.

    Key Challenges
    The 2017 report of the UN Population Fund affirms that mass migrations caused by armed conflict and natural disasters greatly impede efforts to bridge the gap between market needs and the competent young manpower, creating a burden on societies, flooding them with low-skilled labor to the detriment of local cadres. The report states that the Arab community suffers a wide gap between the requirements and needs of the labor market on one hand, and job competencies on the other. In the Arab world, unemployment rates are at 25% which is among the highest in the world, inevitably leading to USD 40-50 billion financial losses annually. The report offers solutions to address vocational and technical training in sectors that lack human resources. Therefore, reducing the risk of excluding local labor and address the need for skilled and experienced cadres who can contribute to the growth of countries. The report also recommends the development of a comprehensive system for quality assurance, work standards, curriculum development, teacher training, and communication with employers. This recommendation aims to create a balanced and healthy combination of specializations and general skills (theoretical and practical) to determine employability which takes into consideration the selection of competent people whilst building the capacity of low-competent ones. The report highlights the need for establishing a body dedicated to providing information about the labor markets around the world and develop future economic plans to address potential market needs. The body will be also responsible for the development of the educational system that can cope with the rapid technological advances which creates more challenges in the global labor market. In its 2017 report, the World Bank shared with the UN concerns about the gap between young people and the labor market due to natural disasters that account for up to USD 520 billion financial losses as well as over 26 million poor and unemployed people. As a result, there is an urgent need for activating risk management systems by international organizations working under the umbrella of the United Nations, the World Bank and their regional partners, including civil and semi-governmental organizations. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the number of unemployed people worldwide has exceeded 200 million, up by 3.4 million compared to last year. The ILO’s “World Employment and Social Outlook 2017” report warned of the impact of recession on small businesses. It noted that this impact on developing countries is worse, with more than half of the labor force working in small and medium-sized enterprises, a sector that offers up to 70% of all jobs opportunities in some Arab countries, and more than 50% in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

    Bigger Ambitions Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of The Big Heart Foundation, the entity organizing “Investing in the Future Conference MENA region,” stressed that reports and studies published by the concerned international institutions, highlights the growing global challenges, especially regarding youth skills and labor market requirements which have been negatively affected by political crises.
    She said: "Given these challenges, we are confident that the hopes and aspirations of the world community is greater than ever, and with increasing awareness of the importance of developing consistent solutions and forging partnerships, we can innovate ways to implement them.” “Crises in areas suffering from conflicts, war and natural disasters, created a heavy burden on the global market and major challenges for the international community. This issue will motivate participants in the next edition of the conference to improve their perceptions for an effective international and regional approach to deal with crises and help youth overcome the challenges. " "The third edition of IIFMENA will be a unique platform for young people to share solutions based on the conditions of their countries. This qualitative step in youth engagement has been reflected in the UN meetings and decisions over the last few years, mainly at the “Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum” held this year, as well as in the 2030 Youth Strategy announced by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on 24 September.” Al Hammadi added.

    Five pillars on youth engagement in solutions development process:
    The ECOSOC Youth Forum highlighted five pillars to promote youth involvement in designing solutions to address crises and enable them to play an active role in the development process:

    First: engage youth in discussions related to the environment, sustainability and rationalized consumption, to raise their awareness and encourage them to adopt responsible practices.
    Second: Provide the necessary resources and facilitate access to modern technologies, to encourage young people to lead initiatives such as SMEs or collective projects that has social impact.
    Third: Involve young people in the discussions held by the United Nations and international and civil organizations in their respective countries, on the issues of peace, social stability, equal opportunities and access to basic rights such as education and health services for all, at local and international levels.
    Fourth: Youth should take part in the development of national strategies in their countries and have the right to participate in making decisions on substantial issues that are related to them.
    Fifth: The establishment of international youth organizations that support the efforts of the local organizations with specific mechanisms for coordination with international decision-makers.
     
  • Sharjah to Ignite Youth Leadership in the 3rd edition of “Investing in the Future”

    Sharjah to Ignite Youth Leadership in the 3rd edition of “Investing in the Future”

    Under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness, Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, Sharjah is set to host the third edition of the “Investing in the Future” (IIFMENA) conference on October 24th and 25th. The event is organized by The Big Heart Foundation, the Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, under the theme “Youth: crisis challenges and development opportunities”. This year’s edition aims to highlight youth-related issues to sustainable development across the world, especially focusing on areas affected by wars, conflicts, and disasters. The event will underscore the role of youth in the development process and how they can shape their future and build their countries. Other included topics are: the importance of development in protecting the young generation from engaging in extremist activities or criminal acts because of circumstances they were forced to live in. The event will facilitate the speakers to discuss challenges and opportunities in creating an effective international investment road map for the future of the youth around the world.

    HH Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi said: "Young people should be entitled to a good education, safe and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, several children in the Middle East and North Africa region find themselves caught up in tough situations, which prevents them from shaping their future in the way they want or live quality lives. The upcoming edition of the Investing in the Future conference will be taking these challenges head on in a bid to alleviate the region's youth from the sufferings of poverty, displacement, marginalisation and lack of opportunities. IIFMENA is a platform dedicated to bringing youngsters face to face with federal as well as social development organisations for an honest and open debate. This enables us to design strategies that will engage them in their development process. Active representation of and participation by the youth is an effective way to make the process truly collaborative, featuring real partnerships where young people are equal decision makers in building a future for them and their countries."

    Her Highness added: "We want to ensure that voices of young people are heard loud and clear. We want to support them so they are able to share their ideas and opinions, and think collectively about what they can do to create a better future for themselves and their communities by contributing to its prosperity. The UAE and Sharjah are committed to protecting the rights of the human being by offering them an environment to thrive in, especially the younger generation. IIFMENA is a key facilitator of this objective and brings together top leaders and advocates in the field to present practical and sustainable ways to develop the skills and capabilities of the region's youth and discover the right opportunities for them to become influential members of society.” This year’s conference is taking place at Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre. The first day includes a series of sessions on policies and strategies to improve the circumstances of youth in MENA region. The session will host government officials, international non-government organizations, top academics, journalists, and experts. The sessions are dedicated to discussing and addressing “Youth Unemployment” issue. Currently, unemployment rates are rising as high as 30% among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Participants will also learn more about how this challenge can create a negative impact on the youth’s life, especially considering the demographic and political changes resulting from conflicts, asylum, and migration.

    Other discussion topics include: education opportunities for the youth and development of the 21st century skillset as a part of the modern education system. Speakers will tackle ways to support young entrepreneurs, harness their talents, and explore potentials to achieve economic stability and social security. These are the two-key goal of sustainable development agenda. The second day of the conference includes a youth forum that brings together students from MENA countries and representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations. They will discuss the challenges and ways to empower youth socially and economically. In 2014, the IIFMENA theme was “Protecting Refugee Children in the Middle East and North Africa”. The event gathered over 300 international figures including leaders and top officials who were concerned with the issues of refugee children. One of the main outcomes of the conference was to establish a set of principles related to the protection of refugee children and adolescents. The main focus of the 2016 IIFMENA was “Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region”. The two-day event was dedicated to addressing education, as well as women’s economic and social empowerment. The closing session announced the adoption of the ‘Sharjah Declaration’ that aims to strengthen the resilience of women and girls. Also, to promote their role in the economic development and protect them from crisis that result from disasters and asylum issues in the Arab region. IIFMENA is a regional conference hosted by TBHF that brings together government representatives, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics, development partners and other experts from the region and beyond. The conference spotlights topics of central relevance in the Middle East and North Africa and engages thought leaders and decision makers in broad-ranging, creative discussions towards devising effective approaches and policies. This year’s edition aims to create an international investment road map for the future of the youth around the world. The Big Heart Foundation was founded in May 2015, following a number of initiatives and campaigns launched by HH Sheikha Jawaher. The Foundation's vision is to protect the poor, vulnerable and needy, and provide decent, dignified lives. In order to achieve its goals, the foundation currently oversees four funds: Palestine Fund, The Refugee Fund, the Girl Child Fund and The Middle East and North Africa Fund.
     
  • Sharjah to Ignite Youth Leadership in the 3rd edition of “Investing in the Future”

    Sharjah to Ignite Youth Leadership in the 3rd edition of “Investing in the Future”

    Under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness, Chairperson of the Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, Sharjah is set to host the third edition of the “Investing in the Future” (IIFMENA) conference on October 24th and 25th. The event is organized by The Big Heart Foundation, the Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, under the theme “Youth: crisis challenges and development opportunities”. This year’s edition aims to highlight youth-related issues to sustainable development across the world, especially focusing on areas affected by wars, conflicts, and disasters. The event will underscore the role of youth in the development process and how they can shape their future and build their countries. Other included topics are: the importance of development in protecting the young generation from engaging in extremist activities or criminal acts because of circumstances they were forced to live in. The event will facilitate the speakers to discuss challenges and opportunities in creating an effective international investment road map for the future of the youth around the world.

    HH Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi said: "Young people should be entitled to a good education, safe and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, several children in the Middle East and North Africa region find themselves caught up in tough situations, which prevents them from shaping their future in the way they want or live quality lives. The upcoming edition of the Investing in the Future conference will be taking these challenges head on in a bid to alleviate the region's youth from the sufferings of poverty, displacement, marginalisation and lack of opportunities. IIFMENA is a platform dedicated to bringing youngsters face to face with federal as well as social development organisations for an honest and open debate. This enables us to design strategies that will engage them in their development process. Active representation of and participation by the youth is an effective way to make the process truly collaborative, featuring real partnerships where young people are equal decision makers in building a future for them and their countries."

    Her Highness added: "We want to ensure that voices of young people are heard loud and clear. We want to support them so they are able to share their ideas and opinions, and think collectively about what they can do to create a better future for themselves and their communities by contributing to its prosperity. The UAE and Sharjah are committed to protecting the rights of the human being by offering them an environment to thrive in, especially the younger generation. IIFMENA is a key facilitator of this objective and brings together top leaders and advocates in the field to present practical and sustainable ways to develop the skills and capabilities of the region's youth and discover the right opportunities for them to become influential members of society.” This year’s conference is taking place at Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre. The first day includes a series of sessions on policies and strategies to improve the circumstances of youth in MENA region. The session will host government officials, international non-government organizations, top academics, journalists, and experts. The sessions are dedicated to discussing and addressing “Youth Unemployment” issue. Currently, unemployment rates are rising as high as 30% among young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Participants will also learn more about how this challenge can create a negative impact on the youth’s life, especially considering the demographic and political changes resulting from conflicts, asylum, and migration.

    Other discussion topics include: education opportunities for the youth and development of the 21st century skillset as a part of the modern education system. Speakers will tackle ways to support young entrepreneurs, harness their talents, and explore potentials to achieve economic stability and social security. These are the two-key goal of sustainable development agenda. The second day of the conference includes a youth forum that brings together students from MENA countries and representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations. They will discuss the challenges and ways to empower youth socially and economically. In 2014, the IIFMENA theme was “Protecting Refugee Children in the Middle East and North Africa”. The event gathered over 300 international figures including leaders and top officials who were concerned with the issues of refugee children. One of the main outcomes of the conference was to establish a set of principles related to the protection of refugee children and adolescents. The main focus of the 2016 IIFMENA was “Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region”. The two-day event was dedicated to addressing education, as well as women’s economic and social empowerment. The closing session announced the adoption of the ‘Sharjah Declaration’ that aims to strengthen the resilience of women and girls. Also, to promote their role in the economic development and protect them from crisis that result from disasters and asylum issues in the Arab region. IIFMENA is a regional conference hosted by TBHF that brings together government representatives, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics, development partners and other experts from the region and beyond. The conference spotlights topics of central relevance in the Middle East and North Africa and engages thought leaders and decision makers in broad-ranging, creative discussions towards devising effective approaches and policies. This year’s edition aims to create an international investment road map for the future of the youth around the world. The Big Heart Foundation was founded in May 2015, following a number of initiatives and campaigns launched by HH Sheikha Jawaher. The Foundation's vision is to protect the poor, vulnerable and needy, and provide decent, dignified lives. In order to achieve its goals, the foundation currently oversees four funds: Palestine Fund, The Refugee Fund, the Girl Child Fund and The Middle East and North Africa Fund.