Commitments for youth volunteering and dialogue emerged from international conferences such as that on "Fostering Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations through Concrete and Sustainable Initiatives" (Rabat Morocco in 2005). It was a major break-through in UNESCO's work in this domain. This was furthered through the 2008 conference on "The Copenhagen Agenda on education for Intercultural Understanding and Dialogue" in Denmark. More recent, the Government of Saudi Arabia relevant initiatives to strengthen and expand the role of volunteerism to promote dialogue, collaboration and interaction among young people from different cultural backgrounds is significant, with international youth fora held in China (2010), Germany (2011), Brazil (2011), India (2012). The "Arab Spring" has also been a turning point in this background.
Hence, based on the above and moving forward in its endeavor to continuously examining new and innovative approaches through which peace can be built in the minds of men and women, namely through enhancing “Civic engagement, democratic participation and social innovation” of youth, as upheld during the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum (October 2013) and encapsulated in Axis 3 of the UNESCO Operational Strategy for Youth. The Conference was therefore designed to provide space for young people to assert their right to self-expression and self-realization and, through this, to provide a development agenda for the world of tomorrow.
This Conference was organized thanks to a strong partnership mobilizing UNESCO through its Bureau for Strategic Planning and the Sector for Social and Human Sciences at Headquarters, but also its Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States (UNESCO Beirut Office) and the main partner of the Abdullah bib Abdulaziz International programme for a Culture of Peace and Dialogue, the King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue (KACND).
The Jeddah Conference
The International conference on Youth Volunteering and Dialogue was successfully held in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from 3 to 5 December 2013. Groundbreaking event, it brought together over 300 youth participants from Saudi Arabia and 39 other countries – representing volunteer groups, civil society, the private sector, governments and international Organizations from all regions of the world.
Organized by the Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue and UNESCO, the three day Conference invited participants to identify and develop new and innovative approaches to youth-volunteering through dialogue.
Our broader aim was to chart new avenues to respond to the aspirations and developmental needs of young people, while, at the same time, enabling them to grow with opportunities that foster hope, success, civil engagement and ultimately peace.
Through a variety of platforms, this unique gathering provided an opportunity for the young volunteers, practitioners and experts to share a rich array of experiences and display new ways of understanding the diversity of volunteer actions undertaken across the world, with a view to releasing its ‘transformative power’.
The Jeddah Youth Declaration on Volunteering and Dialogue was unanimously adopted by the young participants at the Conference - in fact, on International Volunteer Day (5 December) - and it pledged “to integrate dialogue at all levels of volunteering as fuel for creative change”. The Declaration expressed concern at “the current multiple crises which compromise our chances as future leaders to make the world better than we found it” and it called for dialogue as a “catalyst for enabling lasting cooperation, promoting the sharing of experiences and fostering solidarity within and among communities, cultures, faiths, generations and nations”.
This is all the more important as most countries today, especially in Arab world, are faced with an important challenge, which is also an immense opportunity -- young people form a majority of their population. This is a dynamic starting point for building global citizenship through youth empowerment and fulfilment of their aspirations.
In celebrating youth, their energy and willingness to invest selflessly in the well-being of others, the Conference was a call for support for the wider goals of paving the way for a new youth civic engagement in the 21st century. More than ever, we believe we must place trust in the abilities of youth to lead and to act as full-fledged partners, who can make change happen.
We are deeply pleased to have been part of this outstanding event in Jeddah, and we stand ready to partner with young people in their many future initiatives to foster volunteering and dialogue for peace.
Practicing volunteering and a culture of dialogue for mutual understanding and peace
Five workshops mobilized youth for discussions on relevant topics, including on (i) Youth Volunteering and the Promotion of a Culture of Dialogue, (ii) Youth Volunteering, Peace‐Building and Humanitarian Assistance (iii) Volunteerism, the Culture of Peace and Sustainable Development, (iv) Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue in Inclusive Societies and (v) The Role of Information and Communications Technologies in Promoting Volunteering and Responsible Citizenship.
A final report of the conference was produced and provides a full picture of this 3-days conference with opening session, high-level segment and workshops, including cultural exchange visit dinner, traditional dances and art exhibition. The Conference also hosted the award Ceremony of the Pathways for a Culture of Peace international Context that was launched in September 2012 under this Programme.
The conference also served to outlined the relevant initiatives implemented by UNESCO under the “Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Programme for a Culture of Peace and Dialogue”, with a video spot produced to that effect
The event also hosted an Award Ceremony for the winners of the Global Contest for Mutual Understanding launched in September 2012 by the Director General of UNESCO under this Programme.
A Final Declaration was adopted at the end of the conference, in which youth gathered in Jeddah reaffirmed their “commitment to creating open, welcoming spaces to improve the exchange of experiences and to establish new forms for sharing mutual learning, youth civic engagement and intercultural dialogue”. The proceedings of the conference are actually under elaboration.
Jeddah Youth Declaration on Volunteering and Dialogue
Some hundred young participants from all regions of the world met for three days to explore the channels and creativity of youth volunteering, to chart future avenues for the aspirations and needs of youth, and to define new partnerships with foundations, NGO’s and the private sector.
The young participants showcased their volunteering actions, shared their experiences and drew up recommendations for the future. An exhibition focused on examples of successful volunteering action in different areas. Through a series of workshops, the Conference provided opportunities to have exchanges on volunteering and peace-building, humanitarian assistance, cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and the role of information and communications in promoting volunteering and responsible citizenship.
A Declaration was adopted by the participants at the end of the Conference.