Youth diplomacy in Saudi Arabia is empowered
Young people are playing an increasing number of significant roles in many countries today. Their presence is fundamental to addressing issues that face the international community. They have been included in several programs by the UN through Young Non-Governmental Organizations (YNGO), which give a voice to young people in endorsing the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2030 agenda. Youth diplomacy calls for a modern form of diplomatic discourse. It is a term that signifies the role of young people as nongovernmental actors in the political and diplomatic arena. The critical importance of youth diplomacy is demonstrated in international relations today; it is not only professional diplomats who represent their countries and address international institutions on behalf of their nations, but also young people — for they are the future decision-makers.
Youth diplomacy can set up networks for promoting collaborative dialogue and action to achieve national and global strategies. In this way young people can help spread peace, promote interfaith dialogue, defy ethnic conflict and provide solutions for climate change. Saudi Arabia has aligned its modern diplomacy with this perspective.
I recently graduated as a young ambassador for cultural communication from the second Young Leaders Program (YLP), a pioneering Saudi initiative to promote youth diplomacy in the Kingdom. Two mandates of the program are worth highlighting. The first is to empower Saudi youths to represent Saudi Arabia at international conferences and summits in different fields. In 2019 Saudi youths have participated in, for example, the Y20 in Tokyo, Japan, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York, and the Interfaith Dialogues hosted by Granada, in Spain, in collaboration with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID). And this week I am attending the 24th World Scout Jamboree taking place in West Virginia, US, which is an opportunity for Saudis, both women and men, to participate in various sports and intercultural and interfaith-related dialogues. I am looking forward both to participating in, and then writing about, this adventure.
The second YPL mandate is to correct the faulty perception of Saudi Arabia in the international media amid cyberwar attacks and viral slanderous claims directed at the country. The program has equipped around 60 young male and female leaders with a diplomacy training kit of 100 questions and answers on issues in four main areas: Religion, human rights, politics, and general. The program trained us as if we were young official diplomats exposed to the outer world. This shows how the Saudi government is mindful of the need for youth diplomacy. To conclude, the world is preparing for the future, and there is no future if our youth are excluded.
• Alaa Ayesh Al-Majnuni is an English comparative literature postgraduate. She has a postgraduate certificate in international relations from Columbia University. She has worked in education management, research and development, and strategic partnerships in different government entities.