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On the eve of MED FORUM, UN and EU high-officials back the Forum to transform new youth policies into action

On the eve of the landmark MED FORUM of the Anna Lindh Foundation in Valletta, Malta, EU and UN top officials have reaffirmed their commitment to the FORUM's action agenda and strategic focus on youth-led initiatives in the face of unprecedented regional challenges. MED FORUM (Valletta - 23-25 October 2016), the largest regional youth and civil society gathering of its kind for intercultural dialogue, has been timed to take place in the lead-up to next year's first Maltese Presidency of the European Council that has relations between the EU and its Southern Neighbourhood as a central theme.

Speaking ahead of the 42-country forum, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, said: "We have a responsibility to create new pathways for our region's young people to be the drivers of change. And we need to start today, not tomorrow. This was the original idea behind the Young Arab Voices programme, launched by the Anna Lindh Foundation five years ago. Today we know that our young people in Europe feel many of the same passions, fears and aspirations of their Arab peers. We dream the same dreams. So for me, the evolution from ‘Young Arab Voices’ to ‘Young Mediterranean Voices’ is only natural.”

As a key speaker in the Opening Plenary, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova declared ahead of MED FORUM that: “We must equip young men and women with the tools they need to carry the torch of peace and human rights. Facilitating the exchange between youth along the banks of the Mediterranean is key to build effective and sustainable policies, generate positive and constructive discourses and establish enabling economic, social and political environments” underlining that “Youth should not be seen as mere beneficiaries, but as key partners and game-changes for development and sustainability.” UNESCO will also be participating to MED FORUM in the framework of the integrated framework of action Empowering Youth to Build Peace and with a delegation of their pioneering project Networks of Mediterranean Youth (NET-MED Youth) funded by the EU.

The call for opening up opportunities for youth-led initiative, to the north and the south of the Mediterranean, is backed up by new public opinion data from the Intercultural Trends survey of the Anna Lindh Foundation. According to preliminary findings of the survey, carried out this month in preparation of MED FORUM across 13 Euro-Mediterranean countries by the social research institute Ipsos MORI, a majority of polled citizens believe that “fostering youth-led dialogue initiatives is the most efficient measure to prevent and deal with causes of radicalisation and conflict” (79% in European countries surveyed, and 86% in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries).

The opening plenary of MED FORUM 2016, taking place on United Nations Day (24th October), is on the theme of "Beyond Extremism: Youth on the Frontline" and has a strategic focus to operationalise at a pan-European and Mediterranean level new policy interments, notably UN Security Resolution 2250 (the first Resolution of its kind on Youth, Peace and Security, adopted last December by the Security Council) and the EU's new Global Strategy and Neighbourhood Policy.

Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Dr George Vella, stated: “On the eve of our landmark gathering, MED FORUM of the Anna Lindh Foundation is sending out a powerful message across the region that there is an alternative narrative based on dialogue and cooperation. The diverse youth and civil society actors gathering in Valletta over the coming days represent a far-reaching movement for intercultural action in the face of unprecedented cultural aggression and violence in the region. The Forum is a beacon of light across the Mediterranean which can lead us to our first EU Presidency and transform into action new policies aimed at launching a new era of relations for our common Mediterranean future.” Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr George Vella

Wided Bouchamauoi, Nobel Peace Winner with the Tunisian “Dialogue Quartet”, stated at the Anna Lindh Foundation's pre-Forum Youth event in Tunis: “Now is the time to open up dialogue with European and the Southern Mediterranean. Through this new generation, the Arab world is sending a powerful message to the West that it is ready for dialogue," adding that "Our future rests in the hands of young women and men. We need to invest in listening to youth and giving them the opportunity to be present in civil society which is the best way to fight radicalisation and extremist discourses.”

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