Masdar News

Youth from Across UAE Join The Student Exclusive

20 Jan 2016

Exclusive interview with Akon and First RenewAbility Debate Series are Event Highlights

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 20 January, 2016 -- The Student Exclusive – a first-of-its-kind youth event at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) – drew hundreds of students from across the United Arab Emirates for the January 19 event. Supporting ADSW’s mission of raising awareness about sustainable development across the Emirates, the event represented an important gathering of students on sustainability in the UAE, as part of the Middle East’s largest conference on sustainability.

Dr Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of Masdar, the host of ADSW, said: “Awareness is one of the key pillars of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2016. The Student Exclusive was conceived as a way to help our young people understand more about sustainability, and to encourage them to be part of the solution for a better future. It is fantastic to see so many young people join us for this special event. It is my sincere wish that our young people walked away inspired to take action in support of the sustainability of our nation’s communities.”

Moderated by expert columnist and speaker Khalid Al Ameri, The Student Exclusive featured an exclusive interview and audience Q&A with Grammy-nominated singer Akon on his Akon Lighting Africa initiative. Speaking about the event, Akon said: “One of my missions is helping to empower youth across the world to be active in sustainability. It was fantastic to see so many young people from the United Arab Emirates come together to learn more about how we can work together to make the world a better place.”

Akon also delivered brief remarks to the 29 inspirational high schools from around the world which were finalists for the 8th Edition of the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

The Student Exclusive also featured the first installment of the RenewAbility Debate Series, an initiative designed to support the transfer of knowledge from current leaders in the sustainability industry to the next generation of leaders. The event paired some of the industry’s leading voices in sustainability with young Emiratis for an academic debate on the benefits of renewables by 2030.

The debaters included HE Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Permanent Representative to IRENA, Director of Energy and Climate Change at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Christine Lins, Executive Director of REN21, David Sandalow, Inaugural Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University, and Gurmeet Kaur, Head of UAE Projects at Eversheds. They teamed up with Noora Abdulrahman, Maryam AlMazrouei and Mohamed Al Ghailani, students of Masdar Institute, and Dikirani Thaulo, winner of Zayed Future Energy Prize 2015 category.

HE Dr Al Zeyoudi was pleased to participate in the debate: “This mentorship programme, culminated by an intellectual debate, supports the UAE’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. It arms young people with the right tools to understand core sustainability concepts, promotes collaboration among peers, and encourages innovative thinking around sustainability issues.”

Building on efforts to encourage more Emiratis to be active in their communities, The Student Exclusive hosted a session designed to highlight Emirati leaders who turned their personal passions into tangible actions. Entrepreneur and “Just Read It” author Omar Al Busaidy, Mansour cartoon creator Rashed Al Harmoodi and personal health and wellness leaders Abeer Al Amiri and Omar Al Dhiyabi inspired students with their personal stories of building careers from their passion through a spirit of innovation.

Young Emirati students from Model United Nations Middle East and the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Schools Project also spoke about their vision for the future of the world. The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a paraguayan musical group of kids that live next to one of South America's largest landfills, also inspired the audience by performing orchestral music using instruments built from the landfill waste.

Throughout the event, students were encouraged to use social media to promote how they personally take action to promote sustainability, through the official ADSW hashtag #ActionSpeaksLouder.

The Student Exclusive was one of the key events in the awareness pillar of ADSW 2016. The mission is reinforced through a number of other activities such as Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in Schools and self-guided tours of the ADSW exhibitions at ADNEC.

The final event in the awareness pillar of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week will be The Festival at Masdar City on January 22-23. Open to the community and free to attend, The Festival is a two-day street festival filled with fun and educational activities on sustainability against the backdrop of one of the world’s most sustainable cities.