DUBAI // Young GCC nationals have asked to take part in introducing programmes that encourage people in the region to be more active and adopt healthier lifestyles.
The measures came from Health, Sports and Entertainment, a two-day workshop in Dubai attended by more than 200 young people, from students to health professionals.
Organised by the secretariat general of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC-SG), the event wrapped up on Monday with a general review session of all of the ideas raised on Sunday.
“We don’t just want to give you ideas and walk away, we are here because this subject is important to us and we want to make a difference in people’s lives,” said a young woman from Saudi Arabia.
“Please, we ask that you let us participate in implementing these programmes.”
Dr Abdullah Al Hashim, assistant secretary general for human and environmental affairs at the GCC secretariat, said that would be only fitting.
“Of course we would be more than happy to have our young men and women participate in the implementation,” Dr Al Hashim said.
“After all, we do this for them and the generations to come. We want to get the youth more active, and so we want them to tell us how best we can do that.”
He said some of the ideas could be implemented “directly and swiftly, but some required more study and planning”.
Ideas included: educating on the importance of sports and activities; using advanced technology in health programmes; adding nutrition and health studies to school curriculums; banning the sale of toys with children’s fast-food meals; and more centres for women.
“People, but mostly education ministries, must recognise that physical education class is just as important as chemistry and physics classes,” said Dr Amna Alwan, a member of the expert committee at the workshop.
Another recommendation was to implement Oman’s Sports Summer programme across the GCC.
The programme is a travelling festival of sports held at coastal cities from Musandam to Salalah.
“More than 200,000 people participate each year in the Sports Summer programme organised by the government for the past three years,” said Radhi Al Kathiri, a civil engineer from the Oman ministry of sports affairs.
“The programme also includes awareness campaigns on the need to lead and active lifestyle, and offer free health checks for everyone, so it is like hitting two birds with one stone.”
But a Kuwaiti government official said the initiatives would be hard to introduce without a proper budget.
“Please, I ask you to be realistic with these requests,” said Dr Hmoud Al Shammari, deputy director general of the public authority for youth and sports in Kuwait.
“The public authority for youth and sports has a budget of 90 million [Kuwaiti dinars, about Dh1.17 billion].
“About 50m dinars is budgeted for sports, and just 1m dinars for youth, which barely covers the costs of the youth centres. I’d love to implement all these ideas, some of which I had already tried. But without a proper budget that is just not possible.
“All competitive sports should be privatised. It is no longer feasible for governments to spend on clubs. If you look all over the world the sports clubs are private companies not government departments.”