Is Arab Youth Marginalized?

According to an article in the Arab Development Portal, youth accounts for one-third of the Arab world. That means a pool of roughly 135 million people between the age of 15-24 will shape how the whole region will look like tomorrow if given the right opportunities. Some regions in the Arab world, like Algeria for example, witness a problematic lack of contribution of the youth in decision-making processes. This can be explained by either one of two factors: young Arabs are talented but lack opportunities or they are simply less prone to cause change than the youth in Western countries. In other words, can young Omar or young Karima change the world? The answer is ultimately, yes, but it is not as straightforward as it sounds.

In some parts of the Arab world, youth inclusion and empowerment is the least of the government’s problems. The argument could be made that more pressing matters should be solved before we even get to giving the youth a piece of the cake, which undeniably puts them at a second-hand priority. Young people in the Arab world are not used to the fullest of their potential. Otherwise, the Arab world would witness unprecedented development in all sectors. Middle Eastern countries have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world which is due to the slowly increasing market in comparison with the high supply of youth looking for jobs. Fresh graduates are more concerned about finding what they call Wasta (Nepotism) than they are about bringing change. That would mean a big percentage of young people thinking about fleeing their countries to find better opportunities. Additionally, young people should have a say in the political playground, which does not necessarily mean giving them seats in the parliament, but instead, it could be giving them a voice in lower-order decision-making circles such as organizations, community groups, and school and university student councils where youth could take part in history.

On the other hand, young Arabs are aware of this disadvantage compared to youth anywhere else around the world, which should raise awareness, push them to give a little bit more, and invest in themselves to fill-in what has been lacking from their governments. Many civil society organizations have been supporting governments with initiatives to train the youth and cultivate their skills, and young people should be motivated enough to take part in those initiatives. Certainly, it is easier said than done and far from being enough, which suggests that Arab youth also must do a little more their side to reach the fulfilment they seek.

In other words, young Omar and Karima are definitely talented, and they are smart enough, they just have to spend a little more effort to achieve their dreams of changing the world. Again, it may sound easier said than done, but as previously stressed, with the emergence of youth organizations that provide young Arabs with possibilities for development and self-improvement, that dream is getting closer and closer to reality. These organizations, such as the World Youth Alliance (WYA), have left their fingerprints on the young world. The different events, training, internships, fellowships summer camps and more offered by WYA cultivate the youth’s strengths and talents and bring together large networks of creative people to solve, develop, and expand new ideas together. It goes without mentioning the effect that WYA’s CTP program has on the youth and their conception of what human dignity and human value is. So far, these organizational efforts have been most successful in cultivating youth in the middle east, and thanks to those efforts and young Arabs’ motivation to be better, there is no limit lower than the sky.

Published: July 22, 2020
Written by Rissal Hedna, a WYA Middle East online Intern from Algeria