ABU DHABI, Thousands of students from across the UAE have taken part in the opening day of the Middle East Youth Expo 2020, the first positive youth engagement event of its kind in the region.

The students from over 400 schools, colleges and universities will collaborate and explore sustainable solutions for both people and planet aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and the UAE Vision 2021.

Youth delegates as part of the ground breaking event will make over 10,000 pledges towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The three-day festival at Mubadala Arena Sports City in Abu Dhabi from the 3rd-5th February 2020, in strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education, is supported by the Central Bank of the UAE, Department of Education and Knowledge Abu Dhabi, ADEK, Foreign Correspondents' Club of the UAE and PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, alongside representatives from the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 70 international and local speakers and 30 workshops and panel discussion providing a platform to empower youth delegates to achieve their life goals as young leaders of tomorrow and future 'responsible global citizens of the world'.

The opening ceremony hosted by radio host and YouTube personality Hassan Alsheikh, included the first of the MEYE Young Leader of the Year Awards celebrating and acknowledging young leaders in the Middle East who have shown to be resilient change-makers and have inspired their peers and communities.

The Middle East Youth Expo 2020 Sports Award was presented to Hamad Mohammed Hasan Al Shehi who represented the UAE at the Special Olympics Worlds Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019 and his inspirational coach Omar Al Dhiyebi for their power of determination and true sportsmanship.

On accepting the award Omar Al Dhiyebi, Founder of Regional Sports said, "This is an amazing event for the youth of the UAE bringing together Emiratis and expats across every nationality here in the UAE to celebrate inclusivity and inspire them to achieve their life goals and dreams. It truly is a gift to the nation and we feel honoured to accept this award.

"For me the most important thing is to have passion in everything that you do, people don't realise that their are stumbling blocks and obstacles but not everything you want to achieve in life is easy, but for sure it is possible if you have the determination, support from people around you, hard work and discipline then all of these things put together help on the right path and you will get there," Al Dhiyebi said.

Delivering the first keynote speech to commence the event, Mohammed Alaydaroos, Associate Sustainability Pavilion Ambassador, Expo 2020, said, "The biggest challenge I have had in my life is the way people look at me which weakened me and caused a lot of frustration.

"I always say that friendship plays an integral role in human life. My brother is the main reason for my involvement in youth circles and initiatives who say that we always remember from our leaders that a positive person can turn any challenge into an opportunity. I believe that understanding perseverance can help you achieve your goals through passion and determination," Alaydaroos said.

Tracy Fountain, Co-Founder of the Middle East Youth Expo, said, "Positive youth engagement is fundamental in society and the world today. Youth especially here in the UAE who come from all over the world have so many different experiences to share. The Middle East Youth Expo was created to do just that and provide a inclusive platform for all to participate and come together to exploring their thoughts, dreams and aspirations as the nation's future.

"Thank you to everyone who has joined us from across the world to share their remarkable stories of success and for everyone who has made their pledge and commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals to support a sustainable future for all people and planet," Fountain said.

MEYE 2020 is free for all schools, colleges and universities in the UAE to attend and open to participation from NGOs and volunteer organisations in the UAE on the 5th February, which will be attended by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi who will give an opening address on the globalisation of compassion and youth, and conduct an interactive Q and A session with all delegates.

The Middle East Youth Expo 2020 has over ten immersive experiences including the 'Youth Now' hub where youth delegates can join in debates and discussions to work together to solve some of the world's most important challenges; Connect with Nature immersive Escape Room presenting a sustainable journey through the Arabian Desert; The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding takes delegates on a cultural journey through activities that explore Emirati Culture and its role in the world; a performance stage showcasing youth talent from across the UAE; and the Wellbeing Lounge drop in zone for youth delegates.

Source: Emirates News Agency