Jeddah Declaration: Fuel Creative Change through Dialogue & Volunteering
© UNESCO/Jeff Lee
“We pledge to integrate dialogue at all levels of volunteering as fuel for creative change” – This ambitious commitment is highlighted in the “Jeddah Youth Declaration on Volunteering and Dialogue”, adopted on International Volunteer Day (5 December) in Saudi Arabia.
The Declaration captures key features of an innovative volunteering agenda, as defined by over 300 youth participants from Saudi Arabia and 30 other countries – some with world-class volunteer experience. Its call to action -- to volunteer groups, civil society, the private sector, governments and international organizations – will continue the momentum generated by the first-ever “Youth Volunteerism and Dialogue”, which ended with the Declaration’s adoption. Organized by the Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue (KACND) and UNESCO,, the Conference focuses on the scope and direction of youth volunteerism in a diverse global world. It was opened by UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova; Saudi Education Minister, Prince Faisal bin Abdullah Al Saud; and the Secretary-General of the KACND, Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar.
The Declaration begins by expressing the participants’ concern at “the current multiple crises which compromise our chances as future leaders to make the world better than we found it”. Volunteering and dialogue have the power to “generate mutual benefits and transform the lives of all those involved in this process”. Dialogue stands out as an exceptional “catalyst for enabling lasting cooperation, promoting the sharing of experiences and fostering solidary within and among communities, cultures, faiths, generations and nations”.
© UNESCO/Jeff Lee
In areas such as humanitarian work, heritage conservation, or environmental protection, global challenges need local solutions – hence the need to step up calls for “all relevant stakeholders to support and promote these efforts”, and to create enabling environments in which youth volunteering and dialogue can flourish. The full text is available here.
Is it a coincidence that the Declaration ends on a note about “harnessing social media to foster global, active and responsible citizenship,” though volunteering and dialogue? For Saudi participant Hammam N. Al Juraied of WARIF (warif.org). “Not at all. Governments and organizations usually use social media to tell us their news, and think this type of communication on social media is enough. But it’s often just not the type of information that is relevant for the people. It’s important that the powers that be engage with the public, and communicate with us not so much with their official information, but with causes that we can identify with and participate in.” Social media can help remedy a worrying issue currently hampering volunteering efforts, as identified in the Declaration – namely the gap between ideas and their implementation” that can be “bridged by a joint, networked, upstream and community-based sustainable effort of all those involved”.
Irish participant Maire Fitzgerald,who is active in her country’s scouting movement, emphasizes the need for greater engagement via social media to rally support for causes. Engagement forces people to think hard about causes and to provide meaningful support. You can use statuses, pictures, blog posts, or tweets to promote the great work of volunteers that is already going on. In doing this, you are making your target audience aware of as many positive aspects as possible. You can build on this awareness by asking questions, fostering discussions and allowing people to explore the ideas behind what it is you’re doing. By encouraging people to engage in this way, you can start to improve people’s attitudes, and maybe even inspire them to join you. Once you have these communications channels in place, they can then be maintained and you can continue to use them as a dynamic and interactive method to provide information and support to the volunteers.
Paving the way for a new youth civic engagement in the 21st century, invigorated by dialogue, the Declaration is the fruit of intense debate between youth participants during five Conference workshops, offering practical support to catalyze impactful change through volunteering. Themes included: nurturing a culture of dialogue; peace-building and humanitarian assistance; culture of peace and sustainable development; promoting cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue.
“We call upon the youth of the world to join us in our endeavor,” concludes the Jeddah Declaration.
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