Youth must be given a voice, UAE minister tells Aqdar World Summit

Shamma Al Mazrui said young people must have a greater say in shaping future policy during address on second day of Moscow conference

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Young people are “not problems to be solved or voices to be silenced”, Shamma Al Mazrui, the Minister of State for Youth, told the Aqdar World Summit at the weekend.

She said the youth are key in the mission of building bridges between nations and forging a sustainable economy.

With almost half the population of the UAE under the age of 34, “adults too often ignore the voices of youth,” when shaping future policies, Ms Al Mazrui said.

The UAE has developed a network of forums creating a direct voice for young people in all levels of government, the summit heard.

Looking to the future, the minister vowed, “the best future belongs to nations that harness the potential of their youth”.

The challenges of artificial intelligence and food security were also addressed by UAE ministers on the second day of the Aqdar World Summit in Moscow on Friday, which is being held in conjunction with the Moscow Global Forum’s City for Education.

The theme of the second day examined the UAE model for youth empowerment and how to best meet the challenges of the future.

Ministers were joined by Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, chairman of the Hedayah International Centre and the World Council of Muslim Communities, who presented the UAE strategy for countering intellectual extremism.

This is the first time the Aqdar World Summit has been held outside the UAE, with ministers, headed by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, emphasising the depth of the relationship between the Emirates and Russia.

Mariam Al Mehairi, Minister of State for Food Security, warned that, with the future world population heading towards nine billion by the middle of the century, food production would need to increase by 50 per cent with the additional challenges of climate change and water shortages.

The UAE was developing a food security policy that would ensure it protected the needs of more than 170 nationalities living in the country, she said.

This included identifying a basket of 18 essential foods, and ensuring their supply, with improved techniques for those produced in the UAE with better yields and lower water use.

The amount of food wasted every day could feed around 800 million people who currently go to bed hungry, the minister said. “We need to feel guilty when we put food waste in the rubbish bin.”

She said the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy engaged citizens to transform their food behaviour and create a ‘food movement.’

“This is in recognition of the fact that food security depends as much on bottom-up methods driven by the consumer as it does on top-down approaches enacted by the government,” said Ms Al Mehairi.

“Science-based and research-led, this food movement encourages the adoption of a diet that contains less meat and more vegetables, whole grains and pulses, as this is not only healthier, it also results in fewer precious resources being consumed.”

A Russian trying on Emirati clothes at UAE exhibition. Balquees Basalom / The National

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said most people were unaware of how big of a role AI plays in their daily lives.

Just using a smartphone meant that they interacted with AI last thing at night and first thing in the morning, he pointed out, adding that the top five companies now had artificial intelligence at the core of their business.

The UAE was now one of the leading countries in the world in developing AI, the minister said. In the field of health care, it was allowing doctors to spend more time on delivering health care rather than diagnostics, with savings of hundreds of millions of dirhams being made.

Advanced translation programmes that allow people to speak instantly in any languages would also have a positive impact on the world by breaking down barriers and increasing tolerance, Mr Al Olama said.

Artificial intelligence is “making us all smarter as human beings,” he said.

“The quality of life and improving the lives of citizens is why we embrace artificial intelligence.”

During the summit, the Aqdar Smart Academy was launched by Sheikh Saif, with the aim of empowering youth and developing their skills and sense of national identity.

UAE exhibition. Balquees Basalom / The National

The academy, the first of its kind in the world, will feature two programmes in Russian on intellectual security and tolerance. Successful participants will be award a certificate from the Khalifa Empowerment Programme.

On Saturday, the penultimate day of the summit, Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, spoke of ways to empower individuals by “re-engineering the community.”

Her talk was followed with a speech by Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences,

And finally, Saeed Al Tayer, managing director and chief executive of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, discussed the UAE’s renewable energy economy. The four-day summit was set in the Russian capital, during the Moscow Global Forum, for the first time to allow an exchange of ideas and expertise.

Stalls representing all areas of the UAE government provided information to Russian visitors of the exhibition hall about the Emirates and its initiatives. Delegates from local universities handed out information to encourage young Russians to consider studying in the UAE.

Meanwhile, traditional music performances and areas where visitors could dress in Emirati clothes for pictures were also set up in a bid to promote cultural exchange.