UNDP supports 9th International Youth Conference: "Give Back"

Apr 27, 2017

Mr. Amin El Sharkawi, UN RC and UNDP RR, Assistant Undersecretary for Youth Development Eman Faisal Janahi and Sh. Muneera Al Khalifa, Director for Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sh. Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Representative of His Majesty the King for Charity Work and Youth Affairs, Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports and President of Bahrain Olympic Committee, the Kingdom of Bahrain hosted the 9th International Conference under the title "Give Back" and focusing on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs and supported by UNDP Bahrain.

This year’s conference focused for the first time on the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as increasing youth engagement in SDG-related initiatives. The opening was attended by Ministers of Youth from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and high-level government officials in Bahrain and hosted over one thousand youth between the ages of 18-30 years from the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, Russia and the US.

The aim of the Forum was to explore the potential and assess the bottlenecks facing Arab countries in their attempt to empower youth and address youth-related development issues from the policy-making and planning levels. In this regard, the conference specifically looked across the 17 SDGs in general and six goals specifically (Climate Action, Responsible Consumption and Production, Clean Water and Sanitation, Life on Land, Good Health and Well-Being, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure) and explored mechanisms for youth participation through implementation and monitoring. This Forum serves as a platform to facilitate thematic, policy and technical discussions on the endorsed SDGs and how they impact the key areas of youth empowerment.


DSC_5174Participants from the UAE and Oman brainstorm innovative solutions to development challenges.
DSC_5384Rita Kimani, Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals, facilitating a session on design thinking.


One of UNDP’s most prominent contributions was the organization and facilitation of a two-day workshop in collaboration with the Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS) as a pre-conference activity. Jennifer Colville and Kawtar Zerouali (RBAS), along with Sabeeka Al Shamlan and Maryam Al Sadah (Bahrain) introduced workshop participants from over 25 countries to design thinking. This year’s conference was enriched by the presence and participation of the Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals: Rita Kimani from Kenya, Ankit Kawatra from India and Karan Jerath from the United States of America. They were also joined by Hirotaka Koike, Global Focal Point for Habitat III at United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UNMGCY) from Japan.

The workshop introduced participants to the basic tenants of design thinking, dividing them intro groups based on the goals. Facilitators supported the different groups to design and develop innovative solutions to development challenges related to their particular goal. At the end of the two-day workshop, the groups presented their project proposals to a panel of judges composed of representatives from UNDP Bahrain, RBAS and the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs. The top three groups then received seed funding worth US $6000 total (US $2000 per group), and had the opportunity to present during the conference itself.

“The Bahrain International Youth Conference has been a one-of-a-kind experience for me. Over the past few days, I have had the opportunity to be a facilitator and work with fellow youth from different regions of the world in a workshop-styled setting. The workshops focused on showing young leaders how innovative problems can be solved and demonstrated that everyone can be involved and make a difference. I also served on a panel where I had the opportunity to share my story and encourage the young leaders to pursue the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within their own communities. Platforms such as this one organized by UNDP Bahrain are valuable because it allows the community to emphasize that youth can use their talents to make the world a better place and can start now by supporting the SDGs.” – Karan Jerath

“Surprisingly wide diversity from around the world, especially those countries usually not present at the global fora... This was the first impression I had at the 9th International Youth Conference. The UNDP Bahrain and the Bahrain ministry of youth affairs have done tremendous work to ensure this inclusivity as well as practical outcome through "Design thinking method" facilitated by the UNDP Arab RO. Despite language barriers, the workshop went very well and participants were persistent in working on the topic and solutions. I am content with the outcome and way in which the conference was organised; inspiring and engaging. Next year, it would be exciting to see the implementation outcome of the awarded solutions and deeper collaboration between the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, the office of Envoy on Youth, the Bahrain ministry of youth affairs and UNDP Bahrain.” – Hirotaka Koike

"It has been an enriching experience to have been a part of the International Youth Conference at the Kingdom of Bahrain, facilitating the conference and speaking at the discussion panel along with fellow young leaders. It was very interesting to work with such a diverse young participant group from more than 25 countries and discover innovative solutions towards the Sustainable Development Goals through step by step insightful conversations. Given the limited time, the conference was very well planned and the 'Design Thinking Methodology’ workshop provided great guidance and motivated the participants to come up with practical solutions to solve hard hitting issues. The conference closed with everyone feeling very empowered, by bringing youth action and 'giving back' to the fore. I am also happy that my team was awarded seed funding for their idea on SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. I commend the efforts of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Bahrain as well as UNDP Bahrain for putting this conference together to ensure that the ideas of the youth today are raised as well as invested in. Special mention to the conference lead facilitators Jeniffer Coliwell and Kawthar from the UNDP team for leading the conference so well." – Ankit Kawatra


DSC_5945Ankit Kawatra, Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals.
DSC_5432Kawtar Zerouali introduces design thinking to participants at the 9th International Youth Conference: Give Back.
DSC_5555Participants prepare to present to the judging panel that consisted of representatives from UNDP Bahrain, RBAS and the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs.
DSC_5524Participants working on an activity during the design thinking process.


The conference this year also introduced, with the support of UNDP, an application to encourage more participation from attendees. The 9th International Youth Conference’s application allowed participants to answer surveys, ask speakers questions and contained a live feed of all social media channels using the hashtag #Give_Back and #لنرد_العطاء.

The three-day conference presented an impressive list of speakers. During the opening, the Guest of Honor, Mr. Saroo Brierley relayed to the audience his sobering life story of courage and hope, detailing how he had found himself lost as a five-year-old child in India and eventually ended up in Hobart, Tasmania after getting adopted by an Australian family. His story inspired the Box Office hit “Lion”. Other speakers included Aran Seaman, the COO of Eartheasy (Clean Water and Sanitation, Paul Nicklen, Wildlife Photojournalist (Climate Action), Caleb Harper, Director of OpenAG (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), Laurence Kemball-Cook, Founder and CEO of Pavegen (Affordable and Clean Energy) and Dr. Nawal AlHosany, Executive Director of MASDAR City in Abdu Dhabi.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs will host the 10th International Youth Conference in early 2018, and will continue to focus on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

DSC_5875Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals Karan Jerath with his winning team.
DSC_5852The Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals, along with the workshop facilitators and Sh. Muneera Al Khalifa, Director for Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs.

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