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Thursday, November 2, 2000

Her Majesty Queen Rania/ Closing Session of UNICEF Regional Youth Forum

Youth are the voice for change, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah said Wednesday, stressing that Jordanian youth can significantly contribute to the building of a better future of their country through participation in dialogue and exchange of ideas.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the four-day UNICEF Regional Youth Forum, Queen Rania also said Palestinian youth share the same aspirations and ambitions of youth across the world and will to chart a better future for themselves and their people, despite the difficult conditions they are currently enduring.

"As we look to the world today, to try to find an effective role for our nation, we should not forget that there are youth and children in Palestine living in the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict who share your hopes and aspirations," the Queen said. "I am confident that these young people, despite their difficult conditions, will utilize their youthful energies and abilities to bring about a new dawn for themselves and for their people. For as history has shown, youth are the real creative force that is able to affect change."

The Youth Forum, which opened on October 29, brought together approximately 70 young women and men from over 15 countries from the Middle East and North Africa, to discuss the challenges facing the youth of the region and their vision for future action on the issues that involve them.

The Youth from Jordan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunis and Yemen ended the Forum Wednesday with a call for action on issues pertaining to education, violence, health, and gender discrimination, among others.

"The success of a gathering such as this not only encompasses the participation of youth in discussions, exchanging ideas and presenting solutions. It also extends to include the participation of decision-makers who, by listening to you, can translate your ideas into practical solutions that positively reflect your priorities," the Queen told the audience of youth, government and UNICEF officials, human rights experts, and women's advocacy groups.

In their Call for Action, culminating the workshops and discussions held over the four-day period, the youth called for activating the role of non-governmental organizations in protecting the basic principles of youth during times of conflict. They also called for channeling the energies of youth, in the age group of 12-18, towards community service, which would encourage their participation in the building of their communities, rather than the waste of energies in conflict participation. The youth envision the implementation of their vision with the assistance of the media, non-governmental organizations and youth bodies.

The youth also touched on the rights of young workers in employment, calling for the creation of a web site on the Internet, clearly defining the role of professional associations and their mandate in protecting young workers. They also called on youth to utilize the media to highlight the rights of young employees.

In their call for action, the youth urged education institutions and non-governmental organizations to implement awareness campaigns warning children of the dangers of gender discrimination. The youth envision their role as organizing and supervising lectures in schools and summer camps for children in which they highlight the importance of equality between males and females.

On education, the youth called for modernizing teaching techniques for teachers through ministries of education and related non-governmental organizations. Youth, they envision, would play a role in designing training kits for teachers on the requirements of the young students.

"I stand before you today as one of you, speaking to you as a young Arab citizen who supports your objectives. When I remember the aspirations that I held when I was your age, I find that they are the same ones we share together today," the Queen told the youth after attentively listening to their Call for Action.

Also speaking at the closing session, UNICEF Regional Director of the Middle East and North Africa Region Dr. Ibrahima Fall said that the Youth Forum is a first in a series of activities reflecting the region's contribution to the growing Global Movement for Children. It will soon be followed by other regional gatherings for civil society organizations, experts and media that will pave the way to a high-level regional conference on children in April 2001, said Dr. Ibrahima, adding that these gatherings will prepare the regions for the Special Session on Children set to be held at the United Nations in September 2001.

The Regional Youth Forum, organized by UNICEF in cooperation with the Princess Basma Women's Resource Center which provided resource people, training and organizational support, is a culmination of several similar local gatherings, recently held in various countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

"It is very appropriate that young people have taken a lead by holding this meeting. Over the last few days, I was privileged to witness the high level of energy and creativity demonstrated at this venue. This has left me, and my UNICEF colleagues, with a clear conviction that it is right for us in UNICEF to make young people one of its main priorities in the years to come, and to seek ways to promote and protect their rights to development and full participation in matters that affect them," said Dr. Ibrahima.

The Regional Youth Forum comes as part of the Regional build up to insure that the Middle East and North Africa participate in supporting the Global Movement for Children, an initiative aimed at mobilizing all sectors of Society in support of children's issues. Additionally, one of the key objectives of the Global Agenda is to ensure that adolescents have the opportunity to fully develop their individual capabilities in a safe and empowering environment and participate and contribute to their societies.

The Regional Youth Forum assists in this aim by providing an environment for the youth of the area to express their opinions and preferences.