If you’re a keen follower of Egyptian news then you might remember his face and voice as he invited the young people of the world to visit Egypt, inciting the launch of the World Youth Forum, the first youth event of this scale and integration in Egypt. His name is Ahmed Magdy and he is currently one of the organizers at the World Youth Forum. In spite of the organizing team’s extremely busy schedule; as the conference is closing in next week, we managed to snag in a few minutes to ask him a few questions about this massive international event.
- So we’ve seen you announce the World Youth Forum to the world last year, how did that come to be?
I’d like to note that I was representing me and my colleagues. I’ll tell you the story, we, the first graduates of the Presidential Leadership Program [PLP], had been working on local youth forums all over the country so we got an idea since we found those forums very beneficial: why not have one that includes attendees from all over the globe? As a team, we put together a formal suggestion for this idea and presented it to one of our supervisors. We didn’t actually think our suggestion would reach the president and gain his approval, but it did! We received the approval when we were working in the youth forum in Ismailia. I had the honor of representing my colleagues on stage afterward.
- What made you come up with this idea? What did you believe the benefits of a World Youth Forum would be?
We found that youth forums are very beneficial, especially since they give a chance for young people to present problems that are not normally witnessed by senior officials in the country.
- Presenting local issues to officials can work domestically, how would an international event benefit young people?
There are many global issues. For example, we’re not the only ones struggling with the abundance of in-disposable garbage and waste, nor with terrorism, and maybe when we as young people put our heads together we can reach solutions we wouldn’t normally reach when each of us is thinking on their own. At the end of the forum, there is a list of recommendations that are suggested to solve the various problems we have.
- You seem to take this forum quite seriously, why do you believe this event is so important for the youth?
-For those who attend, they benefit from meeting 5000 different minds from different backgrounds and cultures, this isn’t an experience that you see a lot in Egypt. They also get to meet a lot of business people and firms interested and investing in young ideas. So you could say it also has the benefit of networking and exchanging ideas.
For those who couldn’t attend, we’re all over social media. They could follow us and watch the videos; maybe they’ll find inspiration from the ideas discussed.
For those who come from abroad, it’s an excellent opportunity for cultural exposure and getting to interact with mindsets from different backgrounds. Many people have false ideas about those from different cultures, particularly Western perspective about us here in the East. We’re glad we get to play a role in changing that negative mindset.
- What’s the criterion for choosing attendees?
We try to accept with much variety as possible and from as many countries as possible, and we don’t prioritize one country over the other as variety is our focus. We prioritize those who haven’t gotten a chance to attend before. We also want candidates who take this event seriously and can benefit from it the most; this is evaluated through the set of questions that applicants have to answer throughout the application.
- How is this event financed?
This year the entire event is covered by sponsors, thank God. Last year it was partly financed by the government, and partly by sponsors. But this year we got so many sponsoring offers, we’ve even had to let down a few. We’ve managed to cover our costs and there’s a bit extra left, we’ll be opening a voting poll for attendees to vote so they could choose which cause they would like this extra money to go to.
- Do you have a message for the skeptics?
I won’t say we’re living the best of times. But we’re trying. If we remained skeptics we’ll move further backward, but at least if we try together we can eventually achieve a better future.
- I’ve personally heard word going around that there are officials in the current government who don’t take this forum seriously and believe it’s just child play, a project made by youth for their amusement. What do you have to say about that?
I think our work speaks for itself. Our successful forums are across the country not just in Sharm El Sheikh, and the WYF, in particular, has become known worldwide, you can see how many around the world desire to attend, but unfortunately we can only accept a select few. [He was referring to the operations room we were sitting in, overwhelmed with calls and e-mails from all over the globe]
- What are the benefits of the recommendations, the outcomes, of the forum, if no one is actually listening to the youth?
Governments should be listening to what the youth have to say. Here in Egypt, the president is doing so. This year we’ve started a simulation for the African Union, and the Egyptian president has promised to adopt all recommendations brought to the table by African youth once Egypt is head of the union. On the other hand last year, we had a recommendation to create an academy here in Egypt, inspired by a similar example found in France, the Ecole National d’adminstration [ENA]. The National Training Academy was born and is currently active this year, its main goal is to upgrade the skills of government officials and employees; it’s a hub to create efficiently trained personnel for our government organizations.