Why Young-ish Arabs Should Care More About What's Being Discussed at WEF 2020

Published January 21st, 2020 - 12:11 GMT
Why Young-ish Arabs Should Care More About What's Being Discussed at WEF 2020
It's important to devote some time to further explore conversations centered around matters that may not have an immediate impact on their daily lives (AFP)

While global leaders and decision-makers from all corners of the world assemble in Davos for the World Economic Forum 2020, the international event isn't drawing in Arab youth, except on issues that address geopolitical and economic challenges directly affecting the Middle East.

Even though the WEF dedicates a generous portion of its events to geopolitics and prospects of economic growth and development, many of its sessions touch on other issues that also have great impact on young generations, including in the Middle East.

Despite being under fire for allegedly "promoting agendas of the wealthy" and "not providing real solutions to world problems", major international events like the World Economic Forum can provide crucial opportunities through which youth can become better informed on the key issues that will shape future global risks.

Usually, Arab youth have a greater tendency to care about issues that have already been playing out in the region for years, such as regional conflicts, employment and economic growth. This is understandable, and sensible, considering how devastating the geo-economic landscape appears in the region.

But there are other areas that should also be concerning Middle Easterns today, particularly when it comes to climate change, precision medicine, technology, and artificial intelligence. 

WEF 2020 has allocated 23 sessions to the conversation about the environment. Combating climate change is an urgent global responsibility that is increasingly putting the world in danger, with its consequences expected to leave no stone un-turned. So far, there hasn't been much activism on climate change in the region, but like every other part of the world, the Middle East could see many key industries affected by volatile weather patterns including agriculture, logistics and trade, and energy.

By becoming more invested, youth have a chance to play a future role in pressuring policymakers into regulating laws and committing to climate action. 

Similarly, talks about emerging technologies should be on young people's radars as new tech trends rapidly begin to reshape job markets and employment opportunities. And while the rest of the world has been preoccupied - and rightfully so - with ethical questions surrounding data privacy and security, the conversation has been largely un-discussed in the Arab world. 

As WEF 2020 is being held amid extremely heightened tensions across the Middle East, younger generations have a rare chance to see what politicians and global strategists are discussing on their behalf.  By paying closer attention, they will be able to hold their leaders accountable when it matters most.  

The Global Impact of a Tech Cold War

One of the sessions is focused on the global tensions caused by the on-going technological competition between major world powers like the US and China, which has been referred to by organizers as "the new cold war'". The cyber powers race for the most developed technologies is rapidly controlling people's lives. For example, the US president's attack on the Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei last year affected millions of users across the Arab World who are using Huawei phones or were considering purchasing them.

Digital Safety for Youth

A 2018 survey suggested that 71% of the population in the Arab World have access to the internet on a daily basis and that 136.1 million use social media networks, which makes up about 52% of the population in the MENA region. With these relatively high numbers of access to the digital world, it's crucial for users to understand the risks associated with them. The session on digital safety is also expected to address the different measures internet users can take to ensure a safe and responsible connection with the cyber world.

Climate Politics Is Local

Local is the key word. The Middle East is not exempt from the natural irregularities happening across the globe. In one of the many sessions that dominate climate action during WEF 2020, panelists will discuss the various actions that can be taken to help the world combat climate change and how politics and legislation play a vital role in responding to this crisis and in building a more sustainable world that is livable for humanity.

How to Survive the 21st Century

It's no secret that humanity is facing a handful of dangerous risks during the 21st century, such as nuclear wars, ecological collapse, and technological disruptions. WEF will host a talk this year that explores each of these possibilities and will try to provide answers to questions related to each of them.

The Power of Youth

Acknowledging the dynamic role youth are playing worldwide, by mobilizing the public, leading protests and strikes or by starting initiatives to influence decision-makers in regard to the most pressing issues politically, economically, and environmentally, the session titled The Power of Youth investigates the increasing power that young generations are taking advantage of to change the world around them.

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