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  • Wednesday, 19 July 2023

The Advisory Board of the UN International Initiative in Egypt, “Shabab Balad,” Launches the Initiative’s Executive Coalition

• Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation: The initiative is an effective tool for cooperation between the government, private sector, development partners and youth to integrate with the country’s efforts to empower youth and youth.

• Elena Panova, UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt: Shabab Balad is a testimony of the power of public-private-youth partnerships that strive to empower young men and women, especially those in need, and promote access to a wide range of socio-economic opportunities.

• Dr. Ashraf Sobhi, Minister of Youth and Sports: The initiative is one of the important steps within the government's ongoing efforts to empower youth.

• Representatives of the private sector affirm the importance of strengthening cooperation and joint action through the "Shabab Balad" initiative to support youth empowerment efforts.

The Advisory Board of the UN International Initiative in Egypt, “Shabab Balad”, held its second meeting, at the headquarters of the Ministry of International Cooperation in the New Administrative Capital, jointly co-chaired by Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, and Ms. Elena Panova, the UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt. The Board discussed and agreed on the main founding blocks of the SB Initiative. Foremost among them is the formation of the initiative’s executive coalition and the different working groups, the approval of institutional criteria to join the “Shabab Balad” and a few flagship programs within the SB Initiative that aim to help young people to move from the learning stage to work and earning stage. The SB Initiative’s secretariat, represented by UNICEF in Egypt, presented a proposal to establish a virtual academy under the name "Gen-U Academy" to serve young people and prepare them for the transition from education to work and earning .

The Advisory Board includes 11 members: Dr. Amr Talaat, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Dr. Ashraf Sobhi, Minister of Youth and Sports, Dr. Rasha Ragheb, Executive Director of the National Training Academy, as representatives of the government side; Ms. Mirna Aref, General Manager of Microsoft Egypt, Eng. Mohamed Al-Suwaidi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Industries, Ms. Reem Sami Saad, Member of the Board of Directors of Samcrete Investments, as representatives of the private sector; and Ms. Margaret Sancho, Director of the USAID Mission in Egypt, and Ms. Jin Young Kim, Country Director of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) Office in Egypt, as representatives of the development partners, and Ms. Ohood Wafi, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation of Hayah Karima, represent civil society, in addition to Mr. Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in Egypt, and Ms. Omnia El Omrani, member of the Voices of Youth Council of the Commission European Foundation of Hayah Karima.

The meeting approved the executive coalition and the five working groups in-line with the goals of the "Shabab Balad" initiative, namely education, employment and entrepreneurship, training and skills, digitization, and effective social participation.

From her side, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation and co-chair of the Advisory Board, mentioned, "we are pleased with the continuation of constructive cooperation with the UN, which extends for more than 75 years," explaining that the initiative represents a comprehensive tool for cooperation between the government, the UN, the private sector, civil society organizations and the youth themselves, with the overall objective to empower and develop youth skills in line with Egypt's Vision 2030.

The Minister of International Cooperation affirmed the keenness of the partner agencies from the government, UN agencies, the private sector and youth to achieve progress in implementing the Shabab Balad initiative on the ground to leverage the potentials and latent energies of young people. The Minister added that since the first meeting of the Advisory Board, which was held within the activities of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, the Strategic Framework for Partnership with the United Nations for Sustainable Development (UNSDCF) 2023-2027 was approved, which includes youth empowerment, job promotion and increased investment in human capital. She said that these goals complement and intersect with Egypt's Vision 2030 and the presidential initiative, Hayah Karima. Therefore, joint work will be strengthened between the actors participating in the initiative to achieve its goals on the ground, in a way that enhances sustainable development efforts.

Mrs. Elena Panova, the UN Resident Coordinator and Co-Chair of the Advisory Board, mentioned that the UN pays special attention to youth and strengthens their leadership to achieve the sustainable development agenda, highlighting youth’s pivotal role in creating a more peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world for all. She mentioned, "the UN will continue to partner within the "Shabab Balad" initiative and mobilize all efforts to build public-private-youth partnerships that ensure empowerment of young people, especially those at the risk of being left behind, capitalizing on the potential of entrepreneurship.” Shabab Balad is part of the GoE-UN Cooperation Framework 2023-27, which aims at acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the implementation of Egypt's Vision 2030.

Dr. Ashraf Sobhi, Minister of Youth and Sports, confirmed that Shabab Balad is one of the most important initiatives that were launched last year, and represents a unique model of cooperation between international organizations, the government, civil society organizations, the private sector, and youth, which aims to invest in youth, and its pillars are based around promoting the values of self-employment and entrepreneurship, improving links between youth and existing job opportunities, increasing the number of good job opportunities available to young people, promoting equal access to quality education, and equipping youth to be problem-solvers, and active members of civil society which will contribute to the creation of a world better.

Sobhi referred to this initiative as one of the important steps within the continuous efforts made by the Egyptian government towards strengthening cooperation and partnership between the government and civil society, achieving sustainable development in Egypt, and strengthening the efforts of the Egyptian government in supporting and rehabilitating youth, stressing the importance of strengthening cooperation between youth organizations and the Egyptian government to achieve common goals.

Dr. Ashraf Sobhi pointed out that serving and developing youth in a faster and more comprehensive manner requires the solidarity of all parties by uniting efforts, as youth are the most important factors of positive change, and a major reason for finding innovative solutions to the challenges facing their people and their countries.

Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in Egypt and a member of the initiative's advisory board, said, "Shabab Balad initiative represents an important framework for empowering Egyptian youth, investing in developing their capabilities and creating opportunities for them to participate in the development of society. I am pleased to continue cooperation with both the public and private sectors to support youth in reaching their goals through their journey of learning to earning."

In her speech, Dr. Rascha Ragheb, Executive Director of the National Training Academy, emphasized on the Academy's keenness to enhance cooperation with the partners in the "Shabab Balad" initiative through its various programs and tools to benefit from the capabilities available to young people.

Mrs. Margaret Sancho, USAID Mission Director in Egypt, said, "We are pleased to participate in this meeting; it is part of our strategy with the Egyptian government to promote training and employment for young people in various fields and activities, including entrepreneurship and supporting the most talented. USAID continues to work jointly with various parties to enhance efforts directed at youth development in Egypt."

Ms. Jin Young Kim, Regional Director of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) Office in Egypt, explained that the objectives of "Shabab Balad" initiative are directly compatible with the strategic priorities of the agency's development work in Egypt, and therefore the Korean side looks forward to coordinating with all stakeholders in order to maximize the benefits from the future services that the initiative will provide, and the positive impact that this will have on the standard of living of young people.

In her speech, Ms. Mirna Aref, General Manager of Microsoft Egypt, thanked the Ministry of International Cooperation and the UN for leading the initiative, stressing that Microsoft has many programs and initiatives already implemented with partners from the government and others to enhance youth skills and employment. She added that the company is ready to integrate with "Shabab Balad" initiative, in light of creating a unified vision and consistent efforts to increase investment in youth.

Mrs. Reem Sami Saad, Board Member of Samcrete Investments, said, "Samcrete is proud to be part of this initiative representing the private sector, and we hope to work jointly to provide added value towards supporting training and employment efforts for young people as part of its social responsibility."

The Advisory Board discussed, in its first meeting - which was held last November - on the sidelines of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, the strategic decisions related to "Shabab Balad" initiative, which was launched during the World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh under the auspices of the President of the Republic Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Dr. Ghada Makadi, Director of the "Shabab Balad" Initiative and Director General of Partnerships at UNICEF, presented the strategy.

It is worth noting that “Shabab Balad” initiative is the Egyptian version of the UN’s "Generation Unlimited" initiative, which was launched in more than 54 countries around the world, with the aim of supporting and empowering young people in the fields of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social participation. The sustainable national platform of multilateral partners works together, to ensure that all youth in Egypt between the ages of 10-24 are either enrolled in education, have sufficient employability skills, have entrepreneurial opportunities, and participate positively in society by 2030.