Luxor closed the year with the 10th Arab-African Youth Platform (AAYP) organised by the Arab Federation for Youth and the Environment (AFYE). The Abul-Haggag area of the city opposite the Luxor Temple saw 311 young men and women taking part in the event from Egypt, Africa, and the Arab world.
The AAYP was held with the sponsorship of the technical secretariat of the Council of Arab Youth and Sports Ministers and the participation of the Egyptian ministries of youth and sports, environment, tourism, irrigation and water resources, higher education, and culture, and in the presence of young people from Egyptian, Arab, and African universities and experts from regional organisations.
Entitled “Arab-African Youth Cooperation”, the platform focused on heritage, cultural dialogue, and the empowerment of youth and women, giving special attention to issues such as unemployment, illegal immigration, and terrorism on social media, as well as water and the rationalisation of consumption.
The AAYP programme included plenary sessions, workshops, training courses, and awareness-raising campaigns against the use of plastic bags and on cleaning up the River Nile and replacing existing taps with water-saving ones.
Among the activities were the launch of two initiatives, “We will Live in the Right Way” featuring a marathon and sports tournament, and “Visit Egypt: Egypt is Beautiful”. The latter initiative comprised a travel programme for youth delegations to visit archaeological sites and tourist attractions in Egypt, in addition to a trip to Aswan to mark the city’s being named Capital of African Youth for 2019.
Magdi Allam, president of the Federation of Arab Environmental Experts (FAEE), said the AAYP participants had recommended submitting a request to the prime minister and the governor of Luxor to establish an African-Arab Youth Friendship Forest in Luxor. They also suggested that the platform’s management take the necessary measures to establish partnerships with international forums interested in young people in order to enrich constructive dialogue between young people across the world.
They also recommended launching an international documentary competition for young people based on a UN Sustainable Development Goal and thinking of ways to achieve this taking into account the circumstances of each country.
In addition, they demanded that researchers and university students evaluate the experiences of the AAYP dialogue sessions and present ideas to be submitted to the Council of Arab Ministers of Youth. Selecting the best ideas would encourage young people to be more innovative and transform their ideas into practical solutions, the participants added.
Allam said that Egypt had gained experience in youth issues through its National Training Academy and the multiple Youth Forums that have engaged a large number of young Egyptians in communication with the political leadership. He expressed his hope that the Arab and African countries would follow in Egypt’s footsteps, especially after Egypt had trained young people who later took on leadership positions such as deputy governors and assistants to ministers.
The forum had emphasised providing the region’s young people with practical and educational programmes to bring up a generation capable of preserving natural resources and achieving sustainable development, he added.
Allam explained that the forum’s participants had requested various institutions to focus on training and rehabilitation programmes for young people and to provide them with the knowledge and expertise necessary for their future responsibilities.
Mamdouh Rashwan, AAYP president and secretary-general of the AFYE, said the forum, which opened in Luxor on 20 December and concluded its activities in Aswan on 26 December, had come at a time when Egypt’s interest had mounted in investment opportunities, protecting society against extremism and terrorism, and developing young people’s capabilities.
The forum was a regional platform for reviewing and exchanging experiences in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals, Rashwan said, adding that the previous AAYP editions had discussed the role of Arab and African young people in society and economic integration between the Nile Basin and Arab countries to achieve sustainable development.
He added that the AFYE had organised the annual AAYP in the light of the results of international conferences and the World Youth Forum, stressing the AFYE’s belief in the effective role young people can play in boosting international and regional relations in the light of technological advances in the field of communications and young people’s ability to keep track of fast-paced developments.
Rashwan said the forum had discussed topics related to empowering young people, creating decent job opportunities, water issues in the Arab world, building a knowledge economy among young people, and developing their skills. He stressed the importance of Arab and African awareness of water issues from the perspective of sustainable development and environmental and development challenges in the Nile Basin countries.
Abdel-Moneim Al-Shaari, minister plenipotentiary and director of the Youth Department at the Arab League, stressed the importance of the Forum in educating young people and exposing them to different Arab and African experiences. There was a need to inform them further about existing problems and how to counter them, he said.
Ahmed Al-Sahm, a representative of the ministry of youth and sports, said the ministry wanted to communicate with young people through its youth and sports directorates, civil society institutions, and modern technological means, as well as to hold more forums similar to the AAYP in line with the vision of the political leadership in preparing young people to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
Salah Abdel-Razzak, chair of the Committee of Experts and an AFYE advisor, said that Egyptian-African Arab participation aimed to support the positive role Egypt plays in Africa and to consolidate the historical relationship between Egypt and the African countries. It was important in building the capabilities of African young people and promoting their creative energies, he said.
This could be achieved through the sustainable development of the continent, he said, in addition to contributing to the convergence of views among African young people. He stated that the AFYE contributed through its programmes to investing in young people and enriching their knowledge of Egypt’s awe-inspiring historical and tourist destinations.
Mohamed Yehia, head of the water and wastewater company in Luxor, stressed the interest of this holding company in participating in the activities of the annual event, in the presence of representatives of its subsidiaries, notably by helping to raise awareness and organise workshops on the importance of rationalising water consumption. This was an issue of critical importance to the Arab and African countries, he said.
He said that the forum had become a meeting point to share experiences and expertise among the Arab and African countries to achieve the vision of the political leadership in Egypt that gives priority to young people in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Faisal Al-Manawer, a senior technical expert at the Arab Planning Institute in Kuwait, said the Institute aimed to formulate policies to support young people and achieve development, emphasising its role in providing training programmes on the social level, establishing the first Arab regional centre concerned with small and specialised enterprises, and empowering young people to enter the labour market as well as creative initiatives.
During the platform, the Nabd Hayah (Life Pulse) Foundation documented cooperation activities with NGOs to deliver water to impoverished families.
Islam Amin, the foundation’s executive director, explained that household water connections and public pipelines had been installed in the governorates of Minya, Fayoum, Luxor and Aswan, where 1,000 pipes were installed in 2019 at a cost of LE3 million. He added that 100 wells were drilled in the Marsa Matrouh governorate, a 100m pipeline was installed in the Aswan village of Al-Kubaniya, and other sub-lines were installed for LE250,000.
Ehab Abdel-Aziz, a representative of the UN children’s fund UNICEF, stressed the need to organise youth dialogue forums in the Arab and African countries on how to manage water issues and to find creative solutions to existing challenges. There was a need to provide alternative sources of water and to rationalise consumption, he said.
Lebanese judge Nabil Sari said the platform was an opportunity for African and Arab young people to meet with the political leaderships to review the development and investment processes in the region and to enhance mechanisms for countering crises in the African countries, the majority of which are caused by a lack of foreign investment.
He added that the AAYP seeks to enhance the role of African women in achieving sustainable development and countering terrorism that is a major obstacle to development.
DOING IT RIGHT: After visiting the Aswan High Dam and reservoir and in the conclusion of the AAYP, the “We will Live in the Right Way” marathon kicked off from the Grand Mosque to the Rowing Club on the Corniche in Aswan.
The marathon was the AAYP’s first, and it was held to boost tourism and healthcare in addition to helping and supporting patients.
An Algerian young man participating in the marathon said he was thrilled at how many young people had gathered to take part. He suggested organising an international annual marathon on the Nile Corniche for African young people dedicated to consolidating the spirit of brotherhood and the acceptance of the other and being an opportunity to discover the people of Egypt, especially of Aswan, and to get to know first-hand the history of Egypt and the achievements of its people.
Rashwan, the AAYP president, said the marathon was held on the recommendation of the platform and in the light of activating relations with official institutions, including the Ministry of Health, which had succeeded in implementing the “100 Million Healthy Lives” initiative in Egypt.
The forum, he added, was an opportunity to exchange experiences and activate initiatives between young people and state agencies. The marathon had also yielded positive social, cultural and political results, Rashwan pointed out.
He said the platform would in future change the locations where the marathon will be held in order to deliver its message across Egypt’s governorates.
VISIT EGYPT: Arab and African young people taking part in the AAYP also launched the “Visit Egypt: Egypt is Beautiful” initiative to invite the world’s young people to visit Egypt and stressing the stability and safety of the country.
Arab and African young people were keen on taking photographs with tourists and communicating with their peers on social media to encourage them to visit Egypt. The platform participants witnessed the sun illuminating the sanctuary of the Karnak Temples in Luxor, the most important astronomical event in the governorate. The sun’s illumination of the Amun Ra Temple, part of the Karnak Temple complex, marks the beginning of the winter season.
The event started at the Karnak Temple complex at 6am, with participants attending a whirling dervishes performance and a sound and light show before watching the sun illuminate the sanctuary of the Amun Ra Temple.
Rashwan said more tourists were converging on Luxor from different countries to visit its archaeological sites and enjoy its warm weather. He pointed out that tourists were particularly interested in the Karnak and Luxor Temples and the kings’ and noblemen’s tombs on the West Bank. As temperatures drop around the world at this time of year, vacationers often opt to spend their holidays in the warm weather of Luxor amid the remains of the Pharaonic civilisation.
Deputy Governor of Luxor Mohamed Abdel-Kader said the AAYP was the meeting point of different civilisations and a place where the Pharaonic civilisation met the Coptic and Islamic civilisations and modern history.
He called on the AAYP participants to take a stroll along the new Luxor Corniche and to visit its archaeological sites. He also said that the governorate supported green tourism in its hotels and the need to preserve the environment as part of the government’s Egypt Vision 2030 and in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.