At the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York this week, Hashem Abushama, a 21-year-old Palestine refugee student, was invited to share his experiences growing up in Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the West Bank during a breakout session on ‘Key Regional Priorities for Youth Development in the Middle East and North Africa’. Together with the other panelists, including representatives from UNRWA, UNICEF, UNFPA and ITC, Hashem discussed both the challenges and opportunities for youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The interactive panel discussion allowed youth representatives, ministers, senior parliamentary members, civil society partners, youth groups and international organizations to voice their opinions, share ideas, and reflect together on specific issues of relevance to youth in the context of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 and will guide development efforts over the next 15 years.
The session highlighted five key recommendations:
- Using a positive development approach where young people are dealt with as ‘resources’ and not ‘problems’;
- Requesting greater access to quality education, health services in formation, livelihoods, and recreational and volunteer opportunities for greater empowerment, especially for girls, refugee youth (including Palestine refugees), and the most disadvantaged;
- Strengthening mechanisms for the systematic civic engagement of young people;
- Emphasizing the need for employment and entrepreneurship in the MENA region by creating opportunities for development, personal realization and improved self-esteem; and
- Investing in programmes to promote adolescent and youth health.
These recommendations were shared with the international community indicating that the time is now for young people to get behind global efforts to ensure sustainable development for all, including Palestine refugee youth.
Now in its fifth year, the ECOSOC Youth Forum brings together young leaders from around the world to the UN Headquarters in New York. It is a platform for youth to engage in dialogue with Member States and other stakeholders and to contribute to policy formulation on global economic, social and environmental issues.
Read more about the Youth forum.