This year I attended Hammamet 2013, a conference organised by the British Council, enabling delegates to form new relationships and share insights into some of the major political, social and cultural issues arising in the UK, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco.
It was my first time in North Africa and in a short space of time I gained a real insight into the challenges that face both the UK and North African region. It was fascinating to meet people from other countries with different political stances who told me their stories. Despite these differences, it became clear how similar we all were as many of the issues facing our countries overlap and we share common values, goals and aspirations for the future.
Hammamet focused on five key themes; trust and accountability between citizens and leaders; difference, diversity and dialogue; active citizenship; reforming the education system and arts, culture and innovation. It was co-chaired by Dr Atia Lawgali from Libya and Lord Lothian from the UK.
Over the course of the two days there were numerous examples of mutual agreement and understanding between delegates. I attended a session on reforming the education system and we all agreed that our respective education systems were archaic and that schools should focus on both knowledge and skills so that students would be equipped with skills that would help them travel through life.
I also felt rather ashamed that political systems across the world are designed to focus on providing solutions for problems that countries are facing now, rather than plan and provide direction for issues that countries will inevitably face in the future. It is clear that all of the countries present at Hammamet face a crisis of education that our respective leaders need to work together on to tackle and change for the better, if our countries are to thrive in the global competitive world. Moving forward, it is clear that there is a very crucial mentoring role for NGO's and companies to play in this area as the curriculum within the UK is constantly changing and requires external support and direction to ensure it keeps up with the standards of other leading nations.
But ultimately, as well as improving the policies and skills of each of our respective countries, Hammamet was really about partnerships and building relationships for the future. Every conversation that I had with fellow delegates was ultimately about building a stronger and prosperous world for the next generation.
If you turn on the TV and look at the news or pick up a newspaper, you will all too often see headlines and stories focussing on the divisions and negativity between countries and cultures across the world. But we all know, through conferences like the one that I attended, that the world is becoming a better place and that all countries have an exciting opportunity to move forward, with mutual support and exchange of ideas to build a better future.
I left Hammamet with a better understanding of our values and cultures and realised that my optimism and understanding must be shared so that others are inspired to get involved and make a difference.