On Monday 15th October 2018, Aqeel Ahmed MSYP for Glasgow Pollock attended the ‘Youth and Sustainable Peace’ Conference in Abu Dhabi hosted by the research advisory group, Trends Research and Advisory (TRENDS) and the international women’s group, Women in International Security.
Here, Aqeel tells us in his own words about his experience at the conference!
The aim of the conference was to discuss the United Nations (UN) Youth Strategy and in particular, priority number five: 5. 'strengthening the foundations for a UN that delivers with and for young people'. I specifically discussed how governments can empower young people so that they can have a say in the way their country is run. I was not short of examples and experiences of how I, and my youth work colleagues, ensure young people’s voices are heard in Scotland and how we have worked incredibly hard to ensure Scotland’s young people are at the heart of our politics.
What was really impressive was that the whole youth conference was youth-led, even one of the panel discussions involved just young people talking and the planning of that discussion was down to us too! With two television outlets, a host of media interviews and live social media on the day of the conference - I hope our message rung out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and further afield.
I was privileged to meet a number of inspiring young people from various backgrounds - some were working in research, advocacy, women’s groups, think-tanks, working directly with the UN Secretary General on the new Youth Strategy, and a former St Andrew’s Masters student! The list goes on. What I am really sure of is that we will be close friends for a long time to come because our common aim of ensuring young people have a voice will continue to drive us.
I am pleased to say that members of the audience were impressed by the strong focus placed on youth engagement in Scotland and of course, they were very fond of our youth parliament. So much so, that TRENDS intend to explore how SYP operates and how young people from the UAE and Scotland can exchange ideas. Who knows, hopefully we will get to visit the UAE at some point in the future?
I want to just express how grateful I am to Ally Dunhill, a children’s rights researcher, for inviting me to speak at this fantastic conference. Ally is originally from Scotland and is now using her enthusiastic Scottish attitude to make a difference to the lives of young people in the UAE.
I also want to reflect on what we have achieved at the Scottish Youth Parliament and how we are seen internationally as a trailblazer in youth democracy and rights. Just as SYP is leading the way for young people, so too the UAE is exploring ideas to empower young people. This marks a key opportunity for us to potentially work together, share new ideas and make new friends!