«Arab Youth : Civic Engagement & Economic Participation The Management of Social Transformation (MOST) Programme›s primary purpose is to transfer ...»
Arab Youth :
& Economic Participation
The Management of Social Transformation (MOST) Programme›s primary purpose is to transfer relevant Social
Sciences research findings and data to decision-makers and other stakeholders. MOST focuses on building efficient
bridges between research, policy and practice.
The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of UNESCO.
The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States – Beirut Sports City Avenue Bir Hassan P. O. Box 11-5244 Beirut – Lebanon Tel: +961.1.850013/4/5 Fax: +961.1.824854 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.unesco.org/beirut
© UNESCO Regional Bureau - Beirut LB/2011/SS/PI/70 Table of Contents Introduction 4 by Seiko Sugita, UNESCO Beirut Section One Youth Challenges in Social Transformations in the Arab Region 7
1. Youth as agents of change, Rima Afifi 8
2. The Arab Youth torn between a strong desire for active civic engagement and lack of consistent opportunities, Samia Fitouni Section Two How Policy can Support Youth Civic Engagement in the Arab Region 19
1. Civic engagement competencies, Elie Samia 20
2. Marginalized and Unemployed Arab Youth, Nader Kabbani Economic Systems in Favor of Social Justice, Gilbert Doumit 3.
4. Alternative Models to Youth Inclusion in the Business World, Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous & Hasan Younes
5. Presentation about Advocacy and Youth Policy Process, Kamal Shayya Section Three Policies and Research to Support Youth Civic Engagement in the Arab Region
1. Group Discussions: Questions and Observations
2. Policy Recommendations
3. Social Sciences research feeding into policy formulation Annex A: Regional Expert Meeting (19-21 September 2011, Beirut) 48
1. Agenda of the regional expert meeting
2. Presentations summaries
3. List of Participants
4. List of members, the regional steering committee for the expert meeting
5. Evaluation of the meeting Annex B: National reports
1. Egypt, Youssef Wardany
2. Syria, Kareem Abou Halaeh
3. Sudan, Hisham Abdallah Ahmad
4. Kuwait, Fahed Al-Naser
5. Morocco, Hassan Tariq
6. Saudi Arabia, Ali Ben Abdo Alalmahy
Arab Youth and Evolving Regional Context The Arab region has been experiencing a massive youth bulge, with more than half of most countries’ populations under the age of 25. Young men and women in the Arab region today are the most educated; thus they hold the potential to make a considerable contribution to the development of the region.
“Taking the youth seriously” is not an option but an urgent priority for many countries in the region, which has witnessed the readiness and ability of the young men and women to mobilize the society and become an integral part of the social transformations in tandem with the Arab spring in 2011.
Who are the youth? They are young men and women, aged between 15 and 24 years, living both in rural and urban settings. Some are more challenged than others with physical disabilities and sickness. Some are considered as minorities, thus are socially challenged in their environment as indigenous, migrants, stateless, internally displaced and refugees. Some are affected by humanitarian situations or armed conflicts.
While young men and women have more access to the political arena in the postSpring Arab world than before, prolonged uncertain awaithood with difficult schoolto- work transition continues to represent one of the major forms of marginalization of young men and women.
Civic engagement aims at fostering interaction between civil society and other institutions in order to increase the voice of citizens in public life (CIVICUS website).
It can take many forms, from individual volunteerism to organizational involvement and electoral participation (CIRCLE). Broader than political engagement, civic engagement can include service to the community through involvement in health and education and in charitable organizations. (Menard, 2010). Another way of describing this concept is the sense of personal responsibility which individuals should feel to uphold their obligations as part of any community (Moataz al Alfi award). It therefore combines youth development, civic activism and problemsolving and provides new ways for young people and adults to work together for a better community (CCFY). Hence, the set of youth behaviors and activities benefit both youth and community organizations or institutions that serve civil society.”(Balsano).
How to respond to youth’s needs and aspirations for a better life in dignity, a better society with more justice and less corruption? How to reduce the burden of “awaithood” so that they become autonomous and contributing citizens and family members? “Youth civic engagement” is indeed an emerging area of practice and knowledge development globally (Post, 2004). It is a promising strategy to confront the numerous social challenges faced in the region with its evolving context.
The interest and demand to place Youth at the heart of social development are on the increase globally as well as in the Arab region. The UN Inter-Agency Task Team on Youth in the MENA/ Arab region was established in 2010 to make better synergies and to impact on youth issues in the region, with an emphasis on policy support in the area of youth civic engagement and youth economic participation.
Policy and Research Nexus to Promote Youth Civic Engagement
The World Social Science Report 2010 (ICSS/ UNESCO) considers that despite the
diversity of the region, Arab countries generally share certain common features:
- Poor quality of education, particularly in social sciences. Governments have given priority over the years to educational quantity at the expense of quality
- Limited attention to, and marginalization of, the social science disciplines, while priority is being given to natural, professional, and business and management studies, which are identified with modernity and development.
Private higher education institutions barely pay attention to social sciences.
- As result of these factors, social sciences have a diminishing role in response to societal problems and public interest, and only a modest role in informing policies and introducing social change UNESCO strives through its intergovernmental programme on Management of Social Transformations (MOST) to establish a stronger linkage between social science research and public policy making. Social science policy research, fed by dialogues among policy makers, practitioners from civil society, beneficiaries and participants to specific policy and programme interventions and researches, will better inform and advise policy formulation process.
As a result to the increasing interest in Arab youth in the region, numerous studies and research are being undertaken. However, little research has been carried out to understand the trend and impact of numerous experiences pertaining to youth civic engagement and initiated by governments, civil society, schools and universities in the Arab region.
As part of the MOST Programme, the regional expert meeting on “Youth Civic Engagement from the perspective of Economic Participation of Young men and Women in the Arab Region” was organized at the UNESCO Bureau for Arab States (Beirut, 19-21 September 2011).
The three-day regional expert meeting looked at the interlinkage between two major challenges faced by the young men and women in the region: participation and engagement in the evolving regional context, on one hand, and economic participation, on the other.
- What are the requirements for young citizens to play a leading role in social transformations in the Arab region?
- How can civic engagement empower young men and women and enhance their economic participation?
- What are innovative partnership opportunities to explore and support youth empowerment and participation?
The presentations and group discussions were held around 5 sub-themes:
1. Capacity development for youth and leadership;
2. Outreach and inclusion of marginalized young men and women;
3. Youth engagement for innovative partnerships and economic justice;
4. Policy process in support of youth civic engagement, and
5. Social science policy research to support youth participation and empowerment.
14 national experts (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Egypt, Jordan, Palestinian Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia), 24 regional experts representing academic and research institutions, civil society and youth organizations, 11 experts from UN and intergovernmental organizations, together with 9 Lebanese students participated in the meeting.
Informed by 7 national reports on Youth and civic engagement (Jordan, Kuwait, Sudan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria) and 15 presentations on initiatives and research on Youth Civic Engagement throughout the Arab region, the meeting offered a unique occasion for the regional “youth” experts from different countries and different backgrounds to share learned lessons and good practices and to come up with policy and research recommendations in support of young men and women in the evolving regional context. Participants agreed to be “creative and bold” in order to be up to the changes and transformations of the region.
The present report collects the views, findings, experiences and lessons shared by regional experts as well as the collective reflection on policy and research priorities in support of youth civic engagement and economic participation in the Arab region that took place during the regional expert meeting in Beirut (19-21 September 2011).
- What are the requirements for young citizens to play a leading role in social transformation in the Arab region?
- What are main challenges facing youth leaders in the Arab region?
- What are some partnership opportunities to explore to support the empowerment, participation and leadership of young men and women in the Arab region?
In this section, we will analyze the challenges of young men and women in the social transformations and evolving political context in the Arab region.
The dramatic events sweeping the Arab region during the winter and spring of 2011 – what is now termed the Arab Spring - brought media attention to a longrecognized demographic factor in the region: that Arab countries are disproportionately youthful (1). By most estimates, youth (15-24 years) in the Arab region constitute approximately 25% of the population (2). No Arab youth generation in history has been so large. Our region is the youngest region in the world (2). This increase in the proportion of youth in the population pyramid of the Arab world is often referred to as the “youth bulge.” The “youth bulge” has often been used to portray the region in a negative light, and simplistic associations are sometimes made between the youth bulge, high youth unemployment and political disenfranchisement on the one hand and with political instability and even “terrorism” on the other (1,3,4).
However, recent literature on young people has shifted – and rightly so - from an emphasis on young people as problems to young people as assets (5,6). The changing demographics and social status of youth can and should be seen as an opportunity to engage their vast untapped potential, and dynamic energy. As is evident by recent events in the Arab World, youth can be ‘powerful catalysts’ in their own and their community’s development. They contribute to community change by acting as resources and citizens in their communities. In fact, most recent scholarships views young people’s involvement as vital to their own development and that of their communities (7,8,9,10). What are the contextual community factors that support youth to take on this role? What are the factors that can encourage youth to engage? What are principles that promote authentic youth engagement?
There is a vast literature on youth civic engagement and volunteering that we can learn from and that provides additional support for the benefits of youth engagement (11-15), as well as reasons that youth choose to engage in projects in their communities. Interestingly, ‘personal experience with injustice’ has been found to encourage activism (11, p. 715). And here I would like to stop for a minute and focus on the events that may have contributed to the Arab Spring and subsequent youth engagement.
I will focus on the concept of inequities. “Inequities refers to differences (between groups, population segments, etc) which are unnecessary and avoidable and … are also considered unfair and unjust (16).” And we have had a lot of information on these factors as they relate to youth (17,18) both between countries of the Arab world and within countries - in the lead up to the recent uprisings. With respect to income, the percent of persons (not just young people) living below the poverty line in the countries of the region where data was available was as high as 60%. There are vast differences in access to education between countries of the region.
Illiteracy for 15-24 year olds was a high as 50%. The ratio of literacy between women and men aged 15-24 years – an indicator of gender equality, was as high as