Zeina Yazigi and Mohammed Abdi Affey during the session Image Credit:

Sharjah: International experts outlined key solutions for refugee youth during a panel discussion at the ‘Investing in the Future’ conference in Sharjah on Wednesday.

The panel discussion, titled ‘Youth in Conflict and Peacebuilding’, was held on the first day of the two-day conference.

Continuous war and unstable political situations have exposed the youth to unprecedented vulnerabilities in the region, panellists said.

For many of them, seeking asylum with extremist organisations that lure them with the false hope of a better future, has been perceived as their only option.

Speaking at the panel, Mohammad Abdi Affey, UNHCR Special Envoy, emphasised the role of media and education in galvanising support for the displaced groups.

He said: “When these conflicts become protracted, the media shifts its focus. 80 million people are displaced by circumstances, not by choice. Half the refugee population is below the age of 18. Therefore, the first solution is to educate this population. If you don’t educate them, they become hopeless and dangerous.”

Simon O’Connell, executive director of Mercy Corps, emphasised on promoting social cohesion. He said: “There is a need to address grievances. Second, humanitarian organisations need to strengthen governance and finally, to prioritise youth in providing growth opportunities.”

Also speaking at the event was Chaker Khazaal — once a refugee himself — who is a reporter now. He said: “Change the narrative of anger and hate. Our former generations were refugees at some point or the other. It’s a common suffering that one goes through, so let’s eliminate the negativity from this narrative. Let it be replaced by human hope.”