Pitching for better youth engagement in policy-decisions
The United Nations in New York is the official headquarters to over 193 countries which discuss everything from diplomacy and security, to equal rights and environmental awareness. It is also where world leaders from kings, presidents and prime ministers gather to address the annual UN General Assembly. Leaders from Saudi Arabia which have stood before the world body and delivered speeches include King Faisal, King Saud, Prince Saud Al-Faisal and current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir. The list of those names from the Kingdom who have spoken at the UN now includes 30 year Mohammad Bakhrieba of Jeddah.
A graduate of the University of Arizona in Phoenix, Mohammad’s Masters degree in Information Systems was hardly an indicator of the road which would lead him to the UN in New York. It all began after he was studying in the United Sates and returned back to Saudi Arabia where he was working with the Ministry of Health. He quickly became a volunteer with the World Health Organization [WHO], which is the UN’s public health arm around the world. Before long Mohammad was traveling the globe and meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.
Speaking to Reports Mohammad said, “I was working as a volunteer with the World Health Organization, advocating for health promotion and to conduct training sessions on social media for health promotion. As I traveled to a new country I had to justify the stereotypes of Arabs on TV to the people I met. They also wanted to know what the culture looks like in Saudi Arabia, including the famous stereotypes that Arabs have oil in their backyard.” It was these kinds of interactions that got Mohammad thinking how he could use the experiences and knowledge he gained while studying in the United States, with the ideals of the World Health Organization, while also raising global awareness about Saudi Arabian culture.
With his mind continuously wondering how to make a positive impact, he decided to start an organization called, “Call of Culture.” It’s a modern cultural dialogue social enterprise that encourages people to take amore active role in reflecting their own cultures, by building bridges and communication through social media and other outlets.
In his interview with Reports, Mohammad said, “It just feels so great to work on project that will bring people together on one stage from around the globe to advance understanding. What feels good about it is the fact that many people I meet share the same concept and they are very keen to get involved.”
It was not long before Mohammad was invited to give a talk about the “Call of Culture” initiative at the prestigious TEDX Talk in Dubai. As luck would have it, and as the saying goes, “timing is everything,” one of the people listening to Mohammad’s talk was a Hollywood producer with an organization called “Tour 4 Peace.” She loved Mohammad’s idea, and quickly suggested he reach out to the United Nations to make sure they were aware of his vision and work.
Recalling that day, Mohammad told the Reports, “The producer from Hollywood was so kind, and put us in touch with NGOs at the UN, and also at the International Day of Peace Committee. We here happy to know they find Call of Culture an innovative approach to advance and develop the culture of peace around the world.”
With his idea of engaging people around the world to reach out and understand each other more, firmly on the map at United Nations headquarters in New York, Mohammad quickly built a staff of 10 to help him. He could see that the challenges which lay ahead, and the opportunities to engage youth in the decision-making process, were huge. During his interview he said, “The world is taking fast steps into youth activation. However, in the Middle East this is not perhaps the situation, though some countries like KSA have made great progress, the region still requires more youth engagement to diversify the civic engagement and push economy in the right track.”
So when he received the invitation to speak at the UN this year he was jubilant. “I couldn’t believe the chance to address the United Nations. I spoke in front of about 100 people for about an hour and answered their questions. I talked about how the UN can really get the youth engaged in global projects. Many people wanted to know how they could get more involved in their own communities and how they could have better dialogue with different generations and more interfaith dialogues in the Middle East. I suggested peace building, because the fact is the three Abrahamic religions have lived in peace. People forget that.”
As founder of “Call of Culture,” Mohammad’s organization now has consultative status at the UN, so he can continue to provide ideas to improve economic and social status for different regions. He also has his goals and ideas firmly set on how people of all generations can make a difference. “The United Nations can play different role. One of the most important roles would be to facilitate policy development by local government to engage youth representative. This can be developed by different roles including the member states representatives at the UN and encouraging heads of state to have youth advisers and ministers. The UN can lead by example by electing youth secretary general or president of the General Assembly.”
If Mohammad Bakhrieba’s vote counts at the United Nations, it seems he may just get a lot of favorable support for having the passion to make a difference and engage future generations to make the world a better place for decades to come.