The Dead Sea, Jordan, Asharq Al Awsat – Concluding this year’s session in the Dead Sea in Jordan, the Young Arab Leaders (YAL) Annual Forum ended last Monday with plans to hold the next one in Lebanon in November, 2007. Chairman of the of the YAL Board of Directors, Saeed al Muntafiq has announced that scholarships will be granted to 1,000 outstanding students from the forum’s member countries, both in schools and universities, enabling them to resume their studies in the world’s most distinguished universities. He added that the organization will also sponsor another 1,000 young men and women to help them initiate and launch productive projects. Al Muntafiq revealed that a specialized team will travel to Asian countries next March to hold discussions on Asian-Arab relations, soon to be followed by a delegation that will go to Europe to conduct dialogue exchanges related to global matters. He stressed that the forum will follow up with Arab expatriates living abroad as they play a key role in building bridges between the Arab nation and rest of the world.
Based on the recommendations of participants, the final session summarized the practical steps to be undertaken. Among the most important recommendations were the development of leadership skills and studying successful models to be applied to the Arab world through a media campaign designed to stimulate young people into adopting initiatives. Other recommendations included: striving to raise education standards and breaching the gaps between education and the demands of the private sector, as well as the institutionalization of guidance programs to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next. This includes five interactive workshops on education, entrepreneurship, leadership, and dialogue exchange and youth networks.
Amidst heated discussions, young Arab leaders in attendance agreed with the confession stated by some Arab politicians and thinkers that “The source of weakness that afflicts the Arab states comes as a result of deeming multiculturalism as a negative and destructive force, and that the regimes of these countries have sought to entrench values of individualism and personalization into the minds of their people, which have themselves become part of the corruption that plagues these regimes.” Such politicians are of the view that terrorism in the Arab world differs from anywhere else as it has an ‘ideological depth’, which means that it cannot be combated simply through security measures but rather needs to be dealt with by the adoption of an attitude that seeks moderation, intellectual pluralism and the eradication of injustice inflicted on people.
Queen Rania al Abdullah was in attendance, and Prince Faisal bin al Hussein followed through the proceedings of the two-day forum. This year’s session was entitled “Regional, Political and Economic Challenges and the Role of Young Arab Leaders,” which reinforces the content of the forum which emphasizes that facing challenges requires adopting a framework that organizes, rather than exercises pressure on governance. Marwan Muasher, Jordan’s former deputy prime minister and former foreign minister spoke about the challenges facing Arab youth, stating that it is his belief that the absence of political pluralism in the Arab world represents a danger to the entire Arab future. Every year, the YAL commits to implementing a plan of action, which embodies the strategic vision of the organization.
The forum’s second session, less intense but no less critical addressed the propagation of the charitable work spirit in the Arab world. Prince Turki Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz expressed his belief that charity work must be based on teamwork and team spirit, as they are the factors that establish a sense of belonging and affiliation to society. He stated that the starting point of addressing charity work has to take into account the fact that 64 percent of the Arab population is made up of youth, a fact that has made governments unable to absorb their capacity. Prince Turki added, “If we want to send out a message to other countries then it must include a call for the enactment of laws to regulate the civil society institutions’ operations, clearly defining the responsibilities of these social and financial bodies.”
For her part, Director-General of the Jordan River Foundation Maha al Khatib stressed the pertinence of steering the direction towards developmental work and that there be a genuine partnership between civil society institutions, the state, and the private sector, the latter being the one to grant dividends and long-term solutions. Her point was based on her firm belief that the civil society organizations are a true reflection of the nature of society.