AUC at the World Youth Forum: We Talked and now #WeNeedToAct

"We need humanity. We need peace. We need to Talk."

The American University in Cairo (AUC) Alumni, Radwa Hamed, and Mustafa Gamal, alongside the delegation of nine students, participated and played an active role in the World Youth Forum (WYF) under the auspices of His Excellency, President AbdelFattah El Sisi, in Sharm El-Sheikh.

The WYF is  toget young minds thinking in innovative ways for the sake of  spreading “peace, prosperity, harmony and progress,”  to the four corners of the Earth. The Model United Nations (MUN) pillar of the WYF deals with placing young leaders in a situation where they become model-representative of the UN Security Council having to address issues of world peace, international security, and terrorism. This was met with much success as the AUC alumnus and the Director of the Security Council during the MUN simulation of the conference, Radwa Hameds’ team’s MUN final resolution will be taken to the UN by President El Sisi.

Hamed explained that, “It’s a huge honor. Having been doing this for a very long time, you always aim for conveying the message in whatever we have been doing as a Model UN, be it at university or elsewhere”. The ability to take this simulation to reality and, “convey the message of the youth and what they think the utopian solution should be” to those who make the policies and decisions is, a “complete honor,” stated Hamed.

The process of preparing a resolution that is so strong and effective is not an easy one. Hamed said that they began by directing the team to write their position papers on the foreign policies of their states. This paved the way for a discussion on the pillars that need to be resolved with regards to terrorism. “We found four main pillars; funding, border control, social and economic aspect, as well as arms and militarization. We also wanted to have a tech savvy solution,” shared Hamed.

Having checked all the different resolutions passed by the Security Council from 2001 to 2017, as well as the Counter Terrorism Committee’s reports, the drafting process began. The stress of the situation and desire to ensure perfection goes without saying. “We were very stressed, especially during the last two days.  We were stressed in coming up with innovative solutions that might help, have proper funding, and be implementable,” explained Hamed.

Similarly, when asked about the writing process of the position papers, Mustafa Gamal, AUC alumnus and the official representative of Egypt in the simulation, explained that, “we were trying to collect all opinions and suggestions on how to combat terrorism.”

Gamal shared that there were some disagreements in the process because, “everyone was presenting their political views and there was a conflict of interest as everyone wanted to make the most of their country’s situation”.

Regardless as they progressed, “we eventually transitioned from a state of disagreement to a state of agreement and collaboration. This [combating terrorism] is a cause nobody disagrees on and it was a great experience coming up with a creative resolution after a series of suggestions and discussions.”

Gamal gave the opening statement of the Egyptian delegation at MUN discussing current world issues and threats, also in the presence of the president. When asked to comment on the experience of speaking in front of the president, Gamal replied, “I was very proud to speak in front of all these figures of authority- the President, the Supreme Commander, the Prime Minister, and many more”.

He added on to share that, “This level of discussion between the youth and the authorities, removing the “lid” off matters and allowing the youth to speak up and present their most out-of-the-box ideas to help resolve this issue has never been done before.”

Part of the fear and adrenaline of the moment comes from the fact that everybody is watching, not just the president. “It’s not only the crowd that you are in front of. There are people watching all over TV. It was a bit scary, but it was fun and challenging,” said Hamed.

The Insider AUC interviewed several of the students, accompanied by the Dean of Students, Dr. Georges Marquis, who got the chance to participate at the WYF on their expectations, reality and outcomes.

The Dean of Students, Dr. George Marquis commented that the AUC students, “gained enormously in terms of networking and presenting themselves to others whose acquaintances might be beneficial in the future.” The Dean added on to explain that the AUC delegates will bring back these fresh ideas to the community and this could help, “feed into AUC strategic themes of quality of education, internationalization, and the AUC experience.”

Most of the students agreed on how informative and beneficial the sessions were. The experience was eye opening in the sense that so many different students of various backgrounds were gathered under one ceiling. “The speakers are from different nationalities, so their answers are very diverse. There are no two people who give the same answer,” shared the President of Entrepreneurs’ Society and AUC student, Jenny El Boushy. This allowed students to “[see] different angles for the same topic,” added El Boushy. Aside from the different opinions, it was a huge learning experience as per Boushy’s comment “I learned things I never knew before.”

Gamal also commented on the diversity of the forum saying that, “at the forum, we’ve witnessed the idea of a ‘global citizen.’ There were people there, defending their points of view, of different backgrounds, ages, nationalities, genders. Some were working and some were still in college. All these people  came together to present a promising project to the authorities and the UN”.

Another aspect which President of The Agency and AUC student, Farida Khafaga, commented on was the chance to network; an opportunity that rarely comes. “I think it was a great opportunity to communicate with successful businessmen, public figures and ministers,” said Khafaga. Associate Strategic Relations Manager of MCM and AUC student, Fadwa El Saqa, also agreed that “the best thing was networking and the chance to know other people.”

Lena Hafez, President of Robotics and AUC student, also agreed on how organized and diverse the forum was, but added that, “I hoped there was enough time for questions, because there was a large number of people and a lot of us wanted to ask more questions but the time didn’t allow us.”

President of ICGE  and AUC student, Hend El Garem explained that, “the sessions were beneficial but it depended on the speaker. Some topics were more interesting than others.The forum itself was very well-organized.”

In terms of organization, Dr. Marquis stated that, “The forum was very well organized. From arrivals in the airport to arranging passes to events, to the setting and facilities at the forum, everything was world class. The topics of the sessions, which included youth and culture, the role of civil society in sustainable development, and the importance of press freedoms were well chosen for the type of audience that attended. The AUC delegation received exclusive invitations to several events, indicating the esteem that the forum organizers held for the AUC delegation.”

However, Nour Khalil, President of Mashroo3 Kheir and AUC student, said that the conference was, “a very demotivating experience that shatters every bit of hope within you.” She added that the experience was, “a political and economic project to enhance tourism and campaign for the coming presidential elections by all means.”

Khalil also commented on the exclusivity of some of the places to tourists and VIPS while, “I [Khalil] was trying to enter the restaurant to getsomething to eat, to enter the MUN session, to attend the Bedouin night, and many more.”

Moreover, an interesting point that was tackled is the importance of leadership and empowerment. Khafaga participated in discussing some critical points in a session titled, “How does the world create its leaders.”  She told The Insider that, “there was a session about women Empowerment and it was very nice. We also attended several sessions on how to become a future leader.”

In terms of expectations, El Saqa said that, “the whole experience was amazing. The conference exceeded expectations.”

In terms of how the forum can benefit Egypt and the Egyptian community, this is yet to be determined, as per Dr. Marquis. However, “the forum represents an attempt to empower youth, particularly those who have graduated from the Presidential Leadership Program, in which AUC has played a role since its inception in 2015.”

Moreover, “the  forum gave Egyptian youth a role in remaking the image of Sharm El Sheikh as a prime tourist destination, one that is safe and welcoming,” said Dr. Marquis.

The success of the future and the development of the country now lies in the hands of student leaders. Hence, the #WeNeedToAct. “Our dream – the youth of Egypt, and I am with them – is that this forum becomes an effective means of discussion, through which concrete and realistic results are achieved,” said  President El Sisi.