• 14 August 2023
  • Author: Dr. Tariq Al Gurg

The youth of a nation is its most valuable asset, its greatest resource, and the biggest investment it can make in its future. Today, there are 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 years who make up 16% of the global population. These young individuals possess massive potential to drive socio-economic growth and accelerate progress towards our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, youth development remains to be prioritized in global transformation strategies. Harnessing youth's role in driving our communities for a prosperous and sustainable future continues to remain a missed opportunity.

Leveraging the strength of the youth population in driving progress begins with a careful examination of the current state of the education and skilling ecosystem. For over 100 years, our children and youth have been subject to an education system that has barely changed with changing times. While other industries have evolved in the face of global threats, crises, and conflicts, the education system has largely remained unchanged. This is despite the pressing need for children and youth to be equipped with relevant knowledge, skills, values, and experiences they need to navigate these uncertain times. Moreover, reports indicate that youth do not have access to the skills they need for the challenges of an evolving job market – whether it is our transition to greener economies or coping with the very real threats of Artificial Intelligence tools.

The urgent need for the transformation of our education systems, therefore, can no longer be overlooked. To bring about real education transformation and skills development, we need to completely change how we think, what we do, and how we act. The purpose of education is to teach young people the values that make us human and enable them to use those values to make the world better for future generations.

Shaping our children and youth into citizens who are deeply connected to their human values, who are sincerely concerned about our global challenges, and who are deeply committed to taking action and safeguarding the future of humanity – is not an unrealistic vision. It is an achievable reality that can be realized if we recognize that our children and youth need a dynamic system of learning and skilling that is not confined to classrooms, and not shaped by education actors alone. We need the whole of society to come together in this effort and contribute to the transformation of our education systems in ways that will make them relevant to our core realities today. This new system requires the participation of actors across sectors – from education to governments, from private sector to policy makers, from innovators to community members.

For instance, the private sector needs to be one of the closest partners of the education sector and play a leading role in shaping the skilling and training component, which would ensure that youth are fully prepared for future workforce demands and can flourish in their chosen paths. And, at the same time, youth must also be given a platform to lend their voices to discussions on global challenges, especially given that these challenges will have the biggest impact on their futures and well-being.

The UAE has always demonstrated commitment to engaging with youth, and this dedication continues with COP28. Through this global gathering, youths’ perspectives and suggestions will be integrated into global climate policymaking and dialogue. Furthermore, the COP28 agenda focuses on fast-tracking the transition, fixing climate finance, focusing on adaptation to protect lives and livelihoods, and underpinning everything with full inclusivity. As part of this agenda, a thematic day titled "Youth, Children, Education and Skills" has been set aside. This thematic day will highlight replicable national and global solutions, announcing policy and financing commitments from national and global actors. To support the COP28 Presidency’s vision, Dubai Cares is hosting the second edition of the RewirEd Summit, where youth will be at the center of education transformation for climate action.

Building on the success of our first edition held in 2021 at Expo 2020 Dubai, this year’s summit will further highlight the importance of youth, skills and the future of work in driving skilling opportunities and ultimately rebuilding economies and societies. The Summit at COP28 will showcase global and national commitments, innovative practices, and scalable solutions to unlock the potential of transformed education systems in driving progress towards a prosperous and sustainable future for people and planet, thus positioning education at the heart of climate change action and vice versa. 

As we mark the International Day of Youth today, which is celebrated this year under the theme of “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World”, let us remember that investing in youth is investing in the future of humanity and that we cannot achieve any of our SDGs without focusing on youth skills and development. On the contrary, we can make significant progress across each and every SDG when we equip, enable and empower the youth of today to become leaders of tomorrow.

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