(The spoken version shall take precedence)
His Excellency President of the Lebanese Council of Ministers, Mr. Saad Hariri
Your Royal Highness Prince Turki bin Talal, chairman of Mentor Arabia
Your Royal Highness
Excellences Ministers, Members of Parliament, Ambassadors.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to start by extending my sincere gratitude to the President of the Council of Ministers, H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri, for hosting and being the patron of this Mentor Arabia Gala Dinner in conjunction with the 25th Anniversary of Mentor International.
It gives me great pleasure to be here on my first ever visit to Beirut and Lebanon. This while supporting the important work of Mentor in the fight for young people’s right to lead a healthy and meaningful life, free from drugs and addiction.
Ladies and gentlemen: We have all been young. And while we may think back at happy and carefree times, I think we all know, in our hearts that youth can also be a very challenging time in life. Believing in yourself may seem difficult, even impossible. That is when you need others to believe in you. You need positive and sound role models; adults that can support you and help you see - and realize - your full potential. And who knows, maybe one day that young person may be a mentor for someone else?
It has now been 25 years since I founded Mentor International together with members of the World Health Organization. This evening serves as a celebration of all that we have accomplished – so far! But it will also highlight the many challenges we face as we look ahead. Even though 25 years have passed our mission is as imperative today as in 1994 – to empower young people while preventing risky behaviours, such as drug use, smoking, bullying and violence.
Our mission relates to many of the global challenges we are facing at this time. To name just one example: in many countries, mental- and substance use disorders are now among the top public health concerns. One of our own recent surveys found that 4 out of 10 young people suffer from anxiety about the future. 4 out of 10 – almost half of all our young people! We need to take these issues seriously and respond to them forcefully.
I am heartened to see you all here this evening, as we shine a light on the future of our young people and the much-needed work of Mentor.
We heard many inspirational stories earlier today during the launch of Mentor Arabia’s “Youth Mentoring Platform” in partnership with the American University of Beirut. I believe it is crucial to inspire, promote and strengthen self-esteem and resilience in young people, by connecting them with the right mentors.
I would like to extend a warm thank you to the Royal Trustees and Members of the Board of Mentor Arabia as well as the organizing team behind this evening, especially Executive Director Thuraya Ismail.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to keep and even further your invaluable support to Mentor. Without you, we would not be able to carry out our mission and continue to empower youths while simultaneously building stronger societies. Societies that will stand strong and flourish - for many generations to come.
It is with great hope and a warm heart that I look towards the future. Together we can accomplish so much in the years to come.