Press Release: Published 2 February 2012
As part of his visit to Jordan on January 31, 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met with youth to listen to their concerns and aspirations in regards to the reform in the Kingdom. Participants in the meeting were selected for their active involvement in youth related initiatives in education, employment, media, debate, and reform. The group of eight young men and women took part in various youth programs and projects held by the United Nations Agencies in Jordan.
Aside from the youth and the Secretary General, the meeting was attended by the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Jordan and few UN staff.
The Secretary General first opened the floor to the youth who were very organized and enthusiastic to open up about their needs and views representing young people in Jordan. The effect of the Arab Spring on the region and Jordan in particular was the first item discussed. Positive and negative impacts were discussed. The positives represented in the new political reforms that were initiated as a result of the Arab Spring, namely the proactive reform instigated by His majesty King Abdullah on different fronts. Another positive result highlighted by the youth was the opening of many corruption files and bringing those responsible to court. Some participants added that people finally started to talk about their needs out loud and more courageously taking lead after other countries, and leaders started to listen.
On the same topic, one of the youth highlighted how social media had a great role in the Arab Spring. She said
“social media amplified youth’s curiosity and allowed them to stay attuned to the situation in the region. It increased their interest in such matters”.
When asked about where they stood from the reform in Jordan, and whether they felt it was going the right direction, the participants agreed that there are many improvements and good intentions evident in the government’s approach, but also called for further attention to issues of their concern in the fields of education, employment, youth empowerment, and health.
Sara Adel, a 15 year-old student with vision impairment, shared the views and concerns of other participants but added an important request on the list of youth needs in Jordan, which is further attention to the special needs of children and youth with disabilities.
Health, and especially reproductive health, was among the major issues highlighted in the meeting with the Secretary General. Bothaina Qamar, one of the international coordinators for the y-peer network and one of its founders in Jordan and in the region, said reproductive health is found in the school curricula for youth, however, it is almost always overlooked by teachers and not given much attention.
As an active debater and trainer on debate for youth, Shatha Al Saket highlighted the importance of empowering youth and the significance of teaching them vital skills such as the arts of debate. On the same topic, Mohammad Zawahra added
“there are many different cultures in Jordan, thus comes the need for creating the means for proper communication amongst youth in order to get their thoughts heard. This is important especially in the governorates which are rarely included in such programmes”.
On a different, yet very much related angle, Manar Al Zo’bi, a young reporter who focuses on youth concerns and issues, especially those related to reform in Jordan, highlighted the importance of communication amongst youth and the role of media in voicing their needs and giving them a platform to speak out. She said
“Although press freedom is slowly increasing in Jordan, still we lack true media! So far, only private media institutions are taking the initiative and taking advantage of the proposed improvements by investigating and seeking information.”
After listening to youth, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon thanked the participants for sharing their thoughts and expressed his admiration of their analytical thinking and approach to understanding and expressing their needs. He addressed them as the “leaders of Tomorrow, and leaders of today” causing change and reform and affecting global decisions.
“Dear young leaders, It is a great pleasure to sit down together with you and discuss some aspects of your concerns and about your future. I realize that with all these rapid transformations started with the Arab Spring – Arab awakening, the importance of youth has emerged very significantly.” He added “That is why as a Secretary General I have reported to the General Assembly, I have turned it into a generational imperative then I have made it one of my 5 top priorities of my 2 term as a SG. Helping those countries in transition, that’s why I am sitting here with you.”
Expressing that not enough attention has been given to youth he said
“The UN is now placing much more importance on youth, your future, your security, your opportunities – social economic political opportunities, men and women, regardless of age, regardless of where you are coming from”. “I am going to appoint a special representative of the SG on youth, this will be for the first time in the history of the UN. Again, I am going to establish an advisory group of the world’s renowned persons who have visions... who have experience, knowhow and passion, and those who have compassion for these people. This is what I am going to do, that’s why I am sitting here with you” he added.