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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

International Year of Youth launches in Syria with colourful events

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Sixsmith
Capoeira dancers perform before a crowd during the launch of the International Year of Youth in Damascus, Syria.

In proclaiming the International Year of Youth, which runs from 12 August 2010 to 11 August 2011, the United Nations called on governments, civil society, individuals and communities worldwide to support activities for children. Here is a related story.

By Rob Sixsmith

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 25 August 2010 – At a ceremony in Syria to launch the International Year of Youth, the importance of fostering dialogue and mutual understanding among the country’s youth inspired an enthusiastic response.

Live music performances, dance and theatre followed opening words from United Nations Resident Coordinator in Syria Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who stressed the importance of young people to the development of the country.

Role of youth

Young people in Syria and around the world are essential players in the fate of their communities, said Mr. Ahmed. “Though it’s often said that [youth] are the leaders of the future, they are also crucial for the present,” he said.

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Sixsmith
A young man speaks out during the Syrian lauch ceremony of the International Year of Youth.

Mr. Ahmed added that young people are “key actors” for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a set of internationally recognized targets for reducing poverty worldwide by the year 2015.

But perhaps most central to the day’s theme was the importance of young people in the ‘here-and-now.’

“Each activity shows how we’re looking forward to a better tomorrow,” said Maher Durar, a young man from the Palestinian-majority Damascus suburb of Yarmouk. “But what about now? It’s important that people look at us and see that we’re important now, too.”

Art and energy

At the launch, an exhibition of youth photography spanned the walls, depicting the hopes and vision of young people intent on shaping their own reality. The exhibition continued onto the building’s exterior walls with colourful graffiti images.

The launch of the International Year of Youth has given young people in Syria an exciting platform by which to become advocates for their rights – as well as to communicate with ambassadors, development practitioners and media. The year aims to promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and solidarity across cultures, religions, civilizations and generations worldwide.

“The dancing was beautiful, so much energy,” said one young woman, Lemma Andoura.

Mohammed Khayad, 25, agreed. “All of this [art] in the same place – it’s a rare thing in Syria.”

A particular success was the pounding rhythmic performance of Brazilian Capoeira dance. As the dancers somersaulted and cart-wheeled, they thrilled and united their audience – promoting energy and healthy sport for all ages.

Pure potential

The opening ceremony of the International Year of Youth showed the county’s young people to be a vibrant, productive force. But many participants also discussed ways to sustain the event’s enthusiasm throughout the year and beyond.

“Yes, today was fantastic,” said one young participant, Hassan Hilal. “But I worry – what happens from now? What is the real future of the young in this area?”

As youth come into focus as the core of national agendas worldwide, one thing is already clear: young people represent the present as much as they do the future, and they have a truly boundless potential to change the world for the better.



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