(Photo Courtesy: Lara Obeidat)
The American University of Dubai, in association with the UN, organized a conference, which tackled the Global refugee crisis by spreading awareness on the importance of youth engagement on Monday.
More specifically, the Youth engagement and the Global Refugee Crisis event, focused on exploring the importance of mobilizing the youth to lead and drive humanitarian efforts with the help of students at AUD.
Coinciding with International Happiness day, the conference discussed how governments, the private sector, academia and the NGOs would facilitate and further encourage the involvement of the young in public services and to build effective programs in response to the global crisis.
Amongst the topics discussed were: how can communities come together to aid refugees, how students can network and use social media to improve the lives of refugees by promoting positive images and how the government’s engagement can encourage youth aid and volunteer work.
The American University in Dubai had set up flyers around the campus, two huge UN printed tents, large printed brochures and a dedicated information and registration website two weeks prior to the event in efforts to call on its students to engage and attend the conference.
(Photo Courtesy: Lara Obeidat)
As a result, many attendees, including high school students and different university students were available at the conference along with invitees, professors and the press.
Noor Hayani, an AUD student and volunteer at the event, said: “I like that we get to help the refugees around the world but we’re mainly focused on the Syrian refugees.”
“The conference is mostly here to help individuals understand what is happening around them and build an awareness on the severity and magnitude of this global crisis,” she added.
Many speakers attended the conference, amongst them were: Mr. Hussain Al Hammadi (Minister of Education in the UAE), Christos Stylianides (European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management), Mr. Amin Awad (Director of the Middle East and North Africa Bureau and Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Iraq and Syria Situations, UNHCR) and Dr. Lance E. De Masi (President of AUD).
The event included many discussion panels and Q&A sessions and was shedding light on an ongoing global refugee and human rights crisis – research has found that numerous countries were affected by human rights crisis in 2016, some of the crisis-torn countries include: Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, Costra Rica, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and South Sudan to name a few.
Moreover, Commissioner Christos Stylianides, during the Government panel, said that he wants to increase European funding to refugees by almost 60%.
Pamela Chrabieh, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at AUD, helped write the concept note for the event but more specifically the youth panel, told reporters:
“This is a major event and a timeless issue that affects all of us as individuals and as communities, regardless of where we are living because we are all connected in one way or another.”
While, The Office of the United Nations High Commissione for Refugees (UNHCR) says the world is currently facing the highest levels of displacement ever in history, with an unprecedented 65.3 million people forced out of their homes by war, internal conflicts, drought or poor economies – among these are 21.3 million refugees, over half are under the age of 18.
“The situation is so dire and 38% of people displaced in the world are in the Middle East and North Africa, out of more than 65 million worldwide,” said Toby Harward, head of UNHCR Abu Dhabi to the National.
Syria has already witnessed 6 years of bloodshed and war that has caused an estimated 11 million Syrians to fled their country since 2011 and now in the sixth year of war, 13.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance within the country, while almost 500,000 have been killed already – 55,000 of them were just children.
With the UNHCR stating that Africa is the most affected by the refugee crisis – Ethiopia hosts nearly 740,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan and more than 500,000 refugees from neighboring countries, including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, have settled in Uganda.
Tareq Al Gurg, Chief executive officer of Dubai cares, told attendees at the end of the Government panel, “current youths are the leaders of tomorrow” in efforts to encourage youth engagement and volunteer work.