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By: Gamal Essam El-Din
Egypt’s third edition of the 2019 World Youth Forum (WYT) will be held from 14 to 17 December in the Red Sea tourist resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
A record 300,000 young people from 196 countries are expected to attend the event, compared with 122,000 students from 194 countries who participated in November 2018.
Reports say that this year’s discussions will focus on a number of vital world issues, including food security, climate change, artificial intelligence, artistic creativity and women’s empowerment.
At the end of the 2018 WYT, the city of Aswan was declared the capital of “African Youth” for the year 2019. It was also proposed that a forum for Mediterranean youth be held on an annual basis.
The WYF was first held in November 2017 when it brought 3,000 young people from 113 countries to discuss issues, exchange views and recommend initiatives to decision-makers and influential figures. In Egypt and since then, the government has been keen to translate the WYF’s recommendations into action on the ground.
The latest initiative in this respect came on 27 November when 23 new deputy governors, all young people, were sworn in before President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. As many as 16 governors were also appointed.
The step was surprising, not so much because many were expecting a cabinet reshuffle that day, but because this was the first time in Egypt’s modern history that such a large number of young people were appointed deputy governors. According to presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi, out of the total 16, four governors had held posts in different governorates, while 12 were completely new appointments.
“But all 23 deputy governors are young people, and seven are women,” Radi said.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli told reporters that one of the main objectives of the appointments was to inject new blood into governorate leadership.
“We want to prepare a new generation of young and professional leaders in all sectors of Egypt, and for this reason we selected 23 young leaders, compared with 12 in the previous shake-up of provincial governors [in 2018], to join the new appointees.”
Most of the deputy governors are between 30 and 35, Madbouli said, adding they were selected only after they had received specialised training at the National Youth Academy and the Institute of Planning in Local Administration and Executive Leadership. “I am sure that in just a few years all provincial governorates in Egypt will be between 30 and 35 years old, capable of taking up all kinds of duties and responsibilities,” Madbouli said.
“You will gain experience when you face problems on the ground and you will have to find new solutions for them,” Al-Sisi said. Minister of Local Administration Mahmoud Shaarawi argued that, in selecting young deputy governors, their political or ideological background was not important. “The new young deputy governors are drawn from various political parties, including the opposition, because we all want to serve Egypt regardless of political views.
“All what we hope is that they get the experience necessary to become the nucleus of future governors and leaders in this country,” Shaarawi said. Many of the deputy governors are also graduates of the Presidential Leadership Programme (PLP), the minister said. “We selected these 23 graduates in particular because they were the most industrious, hardworking, effective and smartest, and were keen to come up with new, intelligent solutions for improving the government’s performance in social, economic and political areas,” Shaarawi said.
“President Al-Sisi told them that, as they are the ones who will introduce significant proposals, now they will have the opportunity to put these into action on the ground.”
Shaarawi indicated that the National Training Academy will provide a two-month training workshop for the new deputy governors. “They will receive training in crisis management, business administration, staff management, public relations and etiquette, and social intelligence,” Shaarawi said.
Hala Al-Said, minister of planning, said the initiative of appointing 23 young people as deputy governors “reflects trust in youth and a long-term strategy that they take leading positions in Egypt in the next few years”.
Since the new appointments were announced, most of the local media, particularly TV talk shows, have been focusing on the 23 young appointees. “They are not former army and police officers as usual, and most of them are between 30 and 35 and could be future leaders of this country,” said one TV commentator on Wednesday night.
Ahmed Al-Sigini, head of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the appointment of 23 young leaders as deputy governors was a very progressive step. “As we see, the new initiative comes on the heels of others which have been taken since President Al-Sisi came to office in 2014,” Al-Sigini said, adding that the first initiative came in the form of holding seven national youth forums between 2016 and 2019 and two world youth forums since 2017. Most of these recommended that young people be appointed to leading positions in all sectors in Egypt.
“The election laws will also make sure that a large number of young people join the two chambers of parliament — the House of Representatives and the Senate — as well as local councils in the future,” Al-Sigini said.
“So, in a short period of time, I expect that young leaders will be everywhere, taking charge of executive posts in the government and also exercising roles as MPs in parliament.”
Five of the 23 deputy governors are affiliated with political opposition parties which are members of what is called the Parties’ Young People and Politicians Committee.
It was composed of 12 political opposition parties when it was formed in April 2018, and has since grown to include 28 parties.
The committee’s two spokespeople, Haitham Al-Sheikh and Mohamed Moussa, were appointed deputy governors of Daqahliya and Menoufiya respectively.
Three other leaders of the committee, Ibrahim Al-Shehabi (a member of the opposition Generation Party), Bilal Habash, (a member of the Free Egyptians Party), and Hazem Omar (a member of the prime minister’s technical office and of the Future of Homeland Party) were appointed deputy governors of Giza, Beni Sweif, and Qena respectively.
Out of the 23 new appointments, three are women who are graduates of the PLP: Jackline Azer, a Coptic physician, Ghada Abu Zeid, an electrical engineer, and Dina Al-Dessouki, a psychiatrist. They were appointed deputy governors of Alexandria, Aswan and Marsa Matrouh respectively.
Amr Hashim Rabie, an Al-Ahram political analyst, said the appointment of the deputy governors was an important step. “I hope next time we will see them appointed governors, with the experience to reform Egypt’s local administration system,” Rabie said. “I also hope that we will see young people appointed deputy ministers when the time for a cabinet reshuffle comes.
“The next step should be to make sure that laws on local councils and the two parliamentary chambers — the House and the Senate — stipulate that young people take a considerable number of seats,” he added, arguing that “when people revolted in 2011 in what was called the Arab Spring it was because they were isolated and marginalised.
“Aware of this grave mistake, leaders of this country should make sure that new steps and initiatives should reinforce the sense of belonging among young people who in turn should realise that the more they work, the more they will be rewarded,” Rabie said.