"Best experience I ever had"
Mohammed Al Reefi, an 18 year old Saudi student who has been selected to participate in the Saudi International Youth Dialogue Forums, a joint project between UNDP and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shares his story:
- The Saudi International Dialogue Forum allows Saudi youth to visit different countries around the world such as China, Spain, South Korea and India.
- 40 Saudi youth visited India to exchange knowledge and explore the country.
- "Being a ‘pacifist’ I will always think of ways to rid the world of hate and war, and this is why I believe dialogue is important," Mohammed Al Reefi.
“I’m the oldest of five children. I have always wanted to be a doctor and travel the world and one of my future goals is to be with Doctors without Borders. Before the Saudi International Youth Dialogue Forums, I had a limited network of friends,” Mohammed said. “I have always been fascinated with different cultures and how people are diverse.”
Mohammed was only 16 years old when he was nominated to join the 40-members of the Saudi International Youth Dialogue Forum to India. He said that the aim of this trip was to visit New Delhi and India’s IT hubs in Bangalore and Hyderabad and come up with initiatives where India and Saudi Arabia can collaborate.
UNDP is supporting the Kingdom in its efforts to bridge the gap between nations through cultural dialogue, encouraging scientific, intellectual and cultural cooperation. With the support of UNDP, Saudi Arabia aims to enable youth participation, raise their leadership skills and develop their knowledge to prepare them to be future leaders.
The Saudi Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) supported the Saudi Indian Youth forum and contributed in setting the theme and the activities that were included in the program. The Saudi Indian Youth Forum is the fourth initiative promoting youth diplomacy that has been promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first three included China, Brazil and Germany.
The theme of the forum was “ICT for development” with a main focus of using ICT to empower human life. “India is so advanced in the field of Information Communication Technology, most global IT companies have major offices in India, ICT use is growing exponentially,” Mohammed added.
Both Saudi and Indian delegations presented their visions and proposals, which aimed at strengthening bilateral relations with a special focus on developing cooperation in the fields of communications and IT as well as exchange knowledge and expertise on youth-related issues.
They proposed joint solutions in science, medicine and technology fields, especially providing medical services to remote regions with the help of advanced technology. In a message to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon they outlined their hopes, aspirations and recommendations to promote youth participation and world peace.
Saudi youth submitted a proposal to develop an electronic-trade portal to provide life essentials for the less fortunate worldwide.
“The delegation’s visit to Narayan Hrudalaya telemedicine project in Bangalore was one of the best initiatives I saw throughout my life so far, E-health was very advanced. We also visited the Indian Space Research Organization in Bangalore and Google Microsoft office."
Through the Saudi International Youth Dialogue Forum, Mohammed was able to build a stronger self-esteem and build more knowledge. He also made more friends from different parts of the world. “This trip made me discover myself. It gave me the self-confidence and self-appreciation that made me who I am today. The experience gave me the opportunity to grow as a person,” Mohammed added.
Today, Mohammed is studying medicine and still deals with cultural differences with respect and understanding. “During a visit to the famous Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, a small building in front of the hospital was split in two, a mosque and a temple. When I asked one Indian man about the building he said; we humans are all just parts of this world.”
Mohammed stressed that dialogue between different cultures is as important to the world as education and healthcare. At the conclusion of the forum, the youth presented a bilateral message to both, His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee outlining their hopes, aspirations and recommendations to promote youth contributions.