For the first time, young people from across the Arab region had the opportunity to work together during a two-day forum organized by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme. This forum is part of the Arab Youth Volunteering for a Better Future project, which is a regional project UNV is piloting in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.
The forum took place in Marrakesh, Morocco, from 29-30 April 2014, with the aim of exchanging knowledge and best practices, and thus finding ways of surmounting obstacles of youth volunteering in the Arab region.
The major role of the United Nations is advocacy for better legislation for youth volunteering and participation in political processes, said Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary Generals Envoy on Youth, as he addressed the youth in Arabic. Mr Alhendawi reminded the participants that over half of the world population is under the age of 25, emphasizing on the potential that youth have to contribute to the development of their communities.
The UN Youth Volunteer Programme is being formulated as a response to these challenges worldwide. In 2013, UNV launched a new UN Youth Volunteer modality and its Youth Volunteering Strategy, and mobilized 1,021 UN Youth Volunteers to contribute to peace and development in countries of the South. The Arab Youth Volunteering for a Better Future is a regional initiative under the UN Youth Volunteer Programme.
The Regional Youth Volunteering Forum exceeded expectations, and not only provided a space for partners and youth to meet for the first time, but also created an atmosphere of partnership, peer-to-peer collaboration and friendship. It was an amazing day talking about youth volunteering in the regional forum. The conclusion is: volunteering must become a social movement, wrote Jihad Zahir on her Twitter profile, during her participation in the forum. Jihad is a UNFPA Y-Peer volunteer in Morocco. She intervened in one of the forums sessions, called Music, culture and volunteerism, which also counted on the collaboration of Y-Peer Goodwill Ambassador, the Macedonian singer Daniela Dimitrovska, as well as UNDP Morocco Goodwill Ambassadors, the rap band H-Kayne. The ambassadors, highlighted the positive values of youth in the region and beyond, and provided the attendees with some concrete recommendations on how to make the most of the resources they to achieve their development goals.
Other sessions included thematic of gender, social media, political engagement, regional programming, public policies and human rights.
The forum also reinforced the positive relationship between UNVs regional youth volunteering project and the local governments. The Director of Youth Division of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Morocco, Younes Al Jaouhari, opened the forum, alongside UNVs Deputy Executive Coordinator, Rosemary Kalapurakal, and Deputy Resident Representative at UNDP Morroco, Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe.
The forum concluded with a space for work planning and designing initiatives, in order to provide recommendations and solutions to the barriers identified, and suggesting ways to build stronger and more effective partnerships for volunteerism. A report summarizing these recommendations will be drafted and shared.
The Regional Youth Volunteering Forum allowed establishing and strengthening partnerships among regional and international participants, while setting the grounds for future pragmatic interventions. This marks the start of a more systematic dialogue and exchange regarding youth volunteerism in the Arab region.