The importance of youth perspectives according to Ambassador Maya Tissafi
Institutional Communication Service
26 August 2022
At the fifth MEM Summer Summit, the head of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) spoke about the importance of listening to young people for a foreign policy in line with geopolitical challenges in an interview published on the FDFA website.
The FDFA has been a partner of the MEM since the first edition and, Tissafi explained, the feedback has been very positive: the discussions taking place at the Summit "aren't just useful for the participants but are also a source of inspiration for our own foreign policy", especially if we take into account the demographic weight they have in the region: about 45% of the population is in fact under 25 years old.
Young people, the ambassador continued, want to be an active part in the construction of society and this especially with regard to climate and environmental policy, the management of power, education and the labour market.
Each participant comes to the MEM Summer Summit to share ideas with young people from countries, some of which are in conflict with each other. "The summit has created a culture that fosters dialogue. The diversity of voices leads to debates which can result in any number of visions – creating better prospects for the younger generation in their countries, or jointly combating global challenges, for example."
The FDFA maintains regular contacts with all the countries of the MENA region and the MEM Summer Summit adds to this intense diplomatic activity: "the fact that the USI invites a number of government representatives to speak each year does provide additional opportunities for exchange".
The experience of a Young Change Maker
Among the participants at the 2021 MEM Summer Summit was Irem Çörekçi, a student in Media and Communication Studies at Lund University in Sweden, whom we asked a few questions.
How did you find out about MEM and what enticed you to participate?
Thanks to a friend who is doing her PhD at USI: she sent me the application form telling me that I absolutely had to apply because it matched my interests. I was also very motivated to apply so that I could meet some of the MEM organisers and some important academics with whom I could discuss the MEM region and its future. I applied and I am very happy to have participated in the Summer Summit.
Is there any aspect of MEM that you liked the most?
It is difficult to choose what I liked best. When I think back, I am still so surprised at how one week can be so full and well organised. If I had to choose one, I really liked the occasions when we were allowed to be creative and share our ideas on the topics that were addressed during the sessions. In this way, we were able to see how everyone who participated in MEM is a 'gem' and how each participant is unique and intelligent in their own way. Those sessions also bonded us as colleagues and as friends. I’m still in touch with them and look forward to participating in different projects with my 'MEM family'.
What changes has participation in MEM brought?
As I said, MEM was an experience that 'activated' many things. After this incredible event, I started to focus more on the similarities between MEM and other regions: as was said over and over again during the summit, 'what unites us is greater than what divides us'.