First International Youth Forum: A lesson to learn

19-11-2017 09:09 AM

Youssef Sidhom


Problems on hold

Egypt hosted the World Youth Forum (WYF) from 4 to 10 November in the charming South Sinai resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. Egyptians at large eagerly and proudly followed the forum’s activities, and were especially impressed with its meticulous organisation. The WYF ended with a list of substantial, ambitious decisions that covered a range of issues on the local and international levels. During the final session, President Sisi demanded that the recommendations drawn up by youth participants in a day-long simulation of the United Nations General Assembly, which took place as part of the forum, would be presented to the international body in New York. I am particularly keen to see how this step will come along.
The WYF represented a commendable effort by Egypt to initiate a great cultural-civilisational move that recognised the weight and worth of youth. Egypt offered young people the opportunity to express themselves and take part in managing the present and creating the future. Although the WYF closed some 10 days ago, it still extensively preoccupies the media which is obviously not yet done with documenting and analysing it. That significant event has worked to create ripples in the stagnant waters of our national awareness and movement.
Watani reporters are still actively monitoring the effect of the WYF on the political, economic, touristic and cultural fronts, also the pulse of the Egyptian street vis-à-vis the forum. I am personally urged to tackle the experience and outcome from a different perspective: how the forum managed to create a human pot which united and fused different youth, prevailing over their dissimilarities in gender, language, colour, culture or faith. The Forum did not merely overlook these differences or treat them with tolerance; it rather valued the rich diversity and invested its creative outcome into benefitting the human community. I believe that our focus as Egyptians should centre on this diversity and its benefits, rather than merely boasting of the Forum as an exceptional event that took place on our land. We must contemplate how to institute a new, refined vision for diversity in our lives.
For years on end, we preached “acceptance of the other” as we strove on our national effort. More often than not we flopped; in a few incidents we succeeded but it was only a partial, lame success. The acceptance achieved was reluctant and superficial, and never went deep enough to achieve true coexistence, intermingling and communal empowerment. It only served to embellish a political or social image; the ‘other’, be it woman, Copt, youth, opposition, or anyone different from the mainstream or overbearing majority, remained marginalised.
President Sisi did well to acknowledge the right of every human being to his or her own particularity, convictions, and belonging, while respecting the particularity, convictions and belonging of ours. No one should pre-require that the other give up his or her particularity to be accepted. I believe that we Egyptians are in dire need to reconsider several attitudes persistent in our life, and re-arrange our house accordingly. We ought to contemplate the experience of the WYF, and reflect on the participating youth’s magnificent, expansive spirit and remarkable capacity to override differences, in addition to their admirable enthusiasm for interaction, coexistence and joint effort. The outcome was a wonderful, spontaneous, fruitful fusion.
Egypt has ahead of her a long arduous road to tread before she reaches true fusion among the different sectors of her people: a great challenge in integrating girls and boys, women and men, Muslims and Copts, clergy and laity, majority and minority, any one and the other. Only then could every one fuse and melt into a one-nation Egypt.

[For extensive coverage of the WYF, visit

“We need to talk”]

Watani International
19 November 2017

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