Young people converge to shape Expo 2020



Dubai / WAM

The eagerly-anticipated YouthConnect event, spanning a full day of engaging conversations and dynamic workshops, started on a high note with a joint welcome address by Reem Al HashimI, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General Bureau Expo 2020 Dubai; and Shamma bint Sohail Al Mazrui,
Minister of State for Youth Affairs.
Addressing an audience of young people, aged between 16 and 25, from across the six GCC countries, Reem Al Hashimi welcomed the attendees at the Sky Bubble, under Meydan’s iconic crescent roof, and invited them to enjoy the full-day event as they connected with other young creative minds.
On Expo 2020 Dubai’s belief in the power of youth, Al Hashimi said, “Youth is a time of life; but more than that, it is a state of mind. Today is about discovering the link between your passion and your potential for shaping the world positively. Like us, most of you are likely to spend the vast majority of your daylight hours working at something, so you had better make sure it is something you love.”
Shamma highlighted that YouthConnect is one of the many initiatives in the UAE that aims to encourage greater youth engagement in the drive towards building a genuinely knowledge-based economy. Al Mazrui added, “For us as a nation, for us in government and for Expo, young citizens are both our foundation and our future. We must engage and connect with them and Youth Circles and the 100 Mentors Programmes are two powerful tools for us to do this. They aim to harness the full potential of UAE youth – potential that will blossom with events such as YouthConnect and is directly connected to Expo 2020 itself.”
Energised and motivated by the opening remarks, the young attendees then proceeded to take part in the broad range of activities, talks and interactive workshops on offer at the event. These were segmented by four types of sessions: three inspirational conversations, six discussion corners, 13 interactive workshops, and 11 Expo 2020 youth labs.
The sessions were complemented by a variety of entertainment performances to provide attendees with a holistic experience of learning and enjoyment. Amongst those speaking and performing at the event were the hip-hop duo Sons of Yusuf, and illusionists group Imagine KUW, both from Kuwait.
In the inspirational conversations, young people had the opportunity to hear inspiring opinions and differing perspectives from local and international thought-leaders relating to Expo 2020’s subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, was joined by Jihad Kawas, the 19 year old Founder and CEO of Saily Inc., to talk about Opportunity in the context of reimagining the future of learning.
In this session, young people discussed how ‘education’ extends far beyond the more traditional confines of the classroom and both speakers emphasised the importance of continually questioning the world around us. They also encouraged youth to reconsider the idea of failure, and instead view temporary setbacks as a valuable opportunity for learning.
Abdullah Abu Hawili, a 21 year old Lebanese, and Takwa Mohamed Dawdi, an 18 year old Libyan, attended the ‘Opportunity’ discussion. The two University of Sharjah students emphasised the unique opportunity that YouthConnect has given them to meet and talk to inspirational thought leaders on different areas of interest to youth. Abdullah said, “YouthConnect combines learning and entertainment in a unique manner. We are lucky today to have access to a variety of workshops and sessions that will nurture our critical thinking and allow us to be more creative in the way we plan our future.”
Jihad Kawas said, “As a young entrepreneur myself, I really believe in the importance of coming together to share ideas, and support and encourage each other. From what I’ve experienced here today, YouthConnect is a really great platform for this and it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.”
Dr. Aisha bin Bishr, Director General at Smart Dubai Office, and Dr. Joseph Paradiso, Professor in Media Arts and Sciences Director at Responsive Environments Group MIT Media Lab, discussed Mobility by defining what a Smart City really means and its implications on the future.
Later in the day, Omran Sharaf, Project Manager of the Emirates Mars Mission at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, and Majid Al Qassimi, Director of Animal Health and Development at the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, covered the subtheme of Sustainability, sharing their views on how observing Mars can inform the way we live on Earth.
YouthConnect introduced the Expo 2020 Youth Labs initiative, which provides participants with the opportunity to hear from the team leading the planning and delivery of the Expo, explore a range of fields related to the mega-event, and share their opinions and insights. This included lively discussions on topics such as the masterplan, the design of the theme pavilions, and the all-important legacy requirements.
Speaking about the session entitled ‘Expo Mascot: More than just a cuddly camel’, Anita Chandler, Director of Licensing & Merchandising said, “The Expo Youth Labs are incredibly valuable for both the Expo team and young people. For us, it’s a real opportunity to validate our thinking and get fresh insights from the people we are ultimately creating this Expo for, and for young people, the Youth Labs represent a unique chance for them to really make their influence felt. Today we asked young people to share their ideas on creating the official Expo 2020 mascot, which will embody the spirit of our Expo and of the UAE.”
Abdullah Al Hashemi, 21, an Expo 2020 Dubai Apprentice, currently on job placement within the Expo’s Commercial team, attended the session and said, “This was such a great experience for us. We are all responsible and excited about delivering the Expo 2020 we dream of, and it’s platforms like YouthConnect and initiatives such as Youth Labs that give us the ability and the inspiration to make this a reality.”
The 1,000 attendees also had the opportunity to assemble and take part in informal conversations with industry leaders at the Discussion Corners. Speakers including Emirati filmmaker Ali F. Mostafa and Bahraini social media influencer Omar Farooq shared their experiences and success stories in the areas of Technology and Business, Society, Cinema and Food.
Speaking after his Discussion Corner, which focussed on the importance of using social media for the greater good, Saudi social entrepreneur Faisal Sheraiff commented, “I always say that to make a real change, you have to start by making that decision. Today I’ve spoken to so many youth and I’ve felt the positive energy that they are generating. There’s a real sense of optimism about the future, they are ready and willing to shape it.”
YouthConnect also featured a series of Interactive Workshops about topics of relevance to the youth of the region, which had been identified on the basis of interviews and surveys that Expo 2020 Dubai conducted prior to the event. Representatives from distinguished organisations facilitated workshops with the young audience in a number of areas including: Photography, delivered by the Hamdan International Photography Award; Space by MBRSC; Environment and Sustainability by Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency; Design Thinking, by Accenture/ Fjord; and Robotics Scrapyard Challenge, by NYU Abu Dhabi.
Omran Sharaf, Project Manager of the Emirates Mars Mission at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre said, “MBRSC are really proud to be back at YouthConnect for a second year. The atmosphere has been incredible and I’ve been so impressed by everyone I’ve met. Today has really highlighted how talented and ambitious our young people are and events such as these are so important in helping them get excited to think about their future.”
Further workshops were held on Career Development and Creative Writing by Bayt Empowers and Emirates Literature Foundation. Two of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Premier Partners, DP World and Emirates Airline, also hosted workshops in the areas of
Innovation and Travel.



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