Chief Commissioner of the Scout Association, Mr. Ahmed Ali Manik; the honourable Education Minister; the Regional Director of the World Scout Movement, Mr Abdulla Rasheed; distinguished participants; and, fellow Scouts;
It is a special pleasure for me today to welcome all of you to this very important workshop on public relations and marketing for Asia and Pacific region. It is an especially important privilege for me, on behalf of his Excellency Mohamed Nasheed and myself, to welcome all the international participants who have come to Maldives. I hope you are comfortable. I hope you are going to have an opportunity to enjoy the sea. I cannot talk about the beach very much because there isn’t very much beach on this island, but I hope you have a chance to get out of this Island and go see some of the beautiful places in the Maldives.
As we heard, the scout movement is over hundred years old and here in Maldives half of that time we have had scouting. Although we joined world scout organization much later on in the 90’s as far back as 1956 we have had scouting in the country. During this long time I believe, that the principles and the values of scouting haven’t changed. We always remain to develop in young people the values of honesty, integrity, hard work and service and duty to your country, to your communities and to your selves. These ideals have remained over the years but the specific issues that you deal with have changed depending on the time that we live and where we live.
Today, I think this is a very important workshop because it gives you an opportunity to review and reflect on where your priorities lie at this time in your countries, in your scout movement. Clearly the needs will differ from country to country depending on your social and cultural backgrounds your stage of development. Therefore this in an opportunity for you to reflect on those diverse needs and begin to identify how you can expand the scouting movement in your country and equally importantly how you may want to focus your attention on what kinds of issues are there in each of your countries.
As I heard, now you have over 28 million scouts all over the world. In the Maldives scouting has expanded to all the atolls and in every atoll there are schools that have scouting. We now have over 10 thousand young people who are involved in scouting. Obviously, we want to expand. We want more young people to get involved in scouting because of the high ideals that you hold and you help to instil in the growth and development of young people. So we should make a commitment to expand this movement to more islands and more schools and also, as the regional director just mentioned, out of school scouting activities as well.
In this country, we have lot of young people who are out of school but who are also out of the labour market. A lot of them are waiting to find a vocation, a job that would be meaningful for them and to the country. They are waiting to discover them selves. And in the process, there are many hazards, there are many dangers.
In this country one of the biggest dangers facing young people today is the scourge of drugs. While we have 10 thousand scouts, there are 30 thousand young people who are using drugs. This is appalling for a small country like the Maldives. But this is also indicative of kind of life young people are exposed to in this country. It tells us that there is a social vacuum and the children, young people are finding them selves lost on the way.
I cannot think of a better organization than the scouts to help improve this situation. If more young people join scouting and remain as scouts, remain engaged in the ideals that they hold and engaged in the duty to them selves, to their country and to families, I believe, less people will find them selves engaged in unproductive and destructive social activities. So I urge you, the commissionaire and also the scout organization in Maldives, to increase your activities and to expand to other areas of the country.
As I said earlier, as you review your strategies for public relation and communications, communications have to focus on issues. What are some of the issues that face in this country? I just mentioned drugs as one. I believe that the scouting movement can create and disseminate messages to help alleviate the problem of substance abuse in this country. It is a very important area for young people and for the future of the country and I think scouts can play a very important role in this.
I would also like to refer you to the issue of youth employment. Clearly, in all of our country we have young people who are unemployed. I remember as a boy scout in school I learnt many skills that helped me as an adult - the skills that helped me to survive, skills that helped me to deal with other people, to work in teams, and to handle difficult circumstances. These skills are important for all children, all young people, especially to those young people who cannot find jobs -- I believe that if people are trained to reflect on what it is that they can do for them selves, to be either self employed or productive on there own. This will also relieve the situation of helplessness and despair among young people.
I believe what is lacking most is a sense of meaningfulness and purpose in life which must come from reflection on why we are here and what we can do with our selves. So here is an area, I believe, again that scouts can help improve in this country.
The third area I would like to look at is the whole area of environment. This country is at the forefront of the climate change and global warming. If scientists are correct, the current trend in global warming is likely to cause irreversible damage to low laying countries within the next 50 to 100 years. The people have lived in Maldives for the last 2 to 3 thousand years the very thought that we might not survive for next 100 years is not only troublesome, it is I think very devastating for many people, especially for young people to realize as they grow up life is going to become exceptionally difficult because of the changes that are taking place in the environment. The whole issue of meaningfulness and purpose in life itself gets challenged when you begin to think of what awaits you a few decades from now.
So I think it’s really important that you also begin to address this issue and identify the skill sets that are useful for young people to survive and to adapt to changes in the environment due to climate change. Where are the meaningful skills? I believe we need to reflect on this.
We are a nation of ocean. Only a fraction of our country is land. But I believe, even when I was a scout the time that we spent on the ocean was minuscule what we know about our seas was very little. I think we had sea scouts at the time but I don’t think we even had snorkels in schools, so I think through this scout movement we have to make it more meaningful for young people so that they will understand their environment better, discover there environment, the beauty in it the richness in it and also learn to preserve the environment.
A third of our country, inhabited islands, are threatened by costal erosion. The very first emergency I had to face as a vice president was to rush to one of the islands where some of the homes were actually being eroded and falling into the ocean. This was a very serious crisis because that was also the very first ever anti-government crisis for this government. We have since put up costal protection measures on that island but there are so many others and these are expensive solutions. Maldives is not a rich country. And therefore we also have to begin to educate our own people on our habitat our costal areas where we should build and where we should not build, what’s happening to our costal areas and our oceans is something we need to learn. As you design your communication programs and as you design your development programs, your certification and courses you need to include in them courses and certification that is relevant to this areas. I think your communication strategies will be as effective as you make it relevant to your current needs.
So with that I have highlighted about three areas where I believe in Maldives we need to focus on your communication work, one is the expansion of the program to new areas, including young people into only in school and also in the scout movement. Secondly we also need to address the issue of youth in the country, youth problems, youth employment and drug abuse. Thirdly we need to address the issue of climate change, what it means to our people their children and their futures here in the Maldives.
With that I wish you a very productive workshop. I hope you enjoy your stay here. And wish you the very best. Once again, I would like to welcome you all and also took this opportunity to thank the Chief Commissionaire as well as the Asia Pacific Regional Director for inviting me to participate in this inaugural session.
Thank you very much