Among the many well-curated priorities of the UAE, youth development occupies a high rank and its significance is for reasons that are ever well served by reiteration. Every attempt at harnessing the potential of youth becomes the building block for a nation and this imperative was in the spotlight at the Investing in Future conference that concluded in Sharjah recently.

The conference’s theme, ‘Youth-Crisis, Challenges and Development Opportunities’, distilled the myriad urgencies facing countries in today’s geopolitical climate that is fostering youth radicalisation with blatant malintent. There is a need therefore for the fraternity of nations to generate a counter force that can effectively combat such destructive forces through policies and planning that provide youth socio-economic stability, societal harmony and avenues for positive growth.

In the Middle East for instance, youth under 35 years of age represent 75 per cent of the population. Studies show that 50 per cent of the Arab population is under 25 years and that 39 per cent aspire to establish their own businesses over the next five years. These statistics must be the policy drivers of progress. Each of these youth, by virtue of wanting to pursue their dreams, is a contributor to their country’s development and they need to be given the circumstances that can help them achieve their objectives.

The UAE has consistently stressed on the importance of youth development as a means of nation-building. Its policies cover the gamut of youth empowerment, including a host of youth councils — local, ministerial and corporate — as well as a Federal Youth Authority, with the Ministry of Youth at the apex. Every aspect of channelling the potential of youth is integral to the UAE’s growth trajectory as its designs progressively inclusive policies and investments to improve opportunities for its young people.

A fine example of this vision is the ‘One Million Arab Coders’ initiative launched under the umbrella of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) in 2017, which aims to provide free training to one million young Arabs, equipping them with a knowledge of coding and programming and preparing them for job opportunities in a knowledge and ICT-based economy.

In an era where radicalisation seeks spaces in the fragmented web of socio-economic grievances that shape youth experiences, eradicating these spaces through powerful, effective governance is the only way forward.

These are conducive times for the lure of extremism abetted in its greed by the reach of social media. Yet, its power is not greater than the efforts of governments and nations to nurture their youth to be responsible, visionary leaders of tomorrow, who will guide the world towards positive outcomes for all while rejecting all that diminishes the nobility of mankind.