The Arab Youth And Their Opportunities

Earlier this week the Arab Human Development Report was released. This report, entitled Youth and the Prospects of Human Development in a Changing Reality, was launched by the United Nations Development Programme and focuses on youth and their opportunities in the Arab region. This report found that the Arab region has achieved significant progress towards increasing enrollment in schools and fighting illiteracy. These findings were more evident among Arab women, who have witnessed increased educational opportunities in the past several years. Furthermore, this report found that generally extreme poverty and hunger have declined and that there has been an increase in the average life expectancy in this region.

While these findings signal positive change, other findings in the report have highlighted continuing issues. Instead of finding a decrease in conflict, this report found that armed conflict in the region has significantly increased. When the first Arab Human Development Report was released 15 years ago, five out of the 22 states included were witnessing conflict or political violence. However, this most recent report has found that this number has increased to 11. Furthermore, the region as a whole has seen low economic growth which has caused a decline in the standards of living for a large portion of the individuals in this region. This economic situation is more distinct among the Arab youth, who are experiencing widespread unemployment and social exclusion. The Arab youth constitute a large portion of the population for each country in the Arab region. As such, they are more prone to the grim situation occurring around them and as a result of this they are facing significant hurdles within their countries. Many of these youth who graduate university tend to migrate abroad for better opportunities.

While this report aims to highlight the current situation in this region, it also seeks to address several key myths surrounding Arab youth. There is a widespread misconception that the majority of the Arab youth are prone to radicalization and extremism, something which this report found to be untrue. Opinion polling conducted for this report found that the majority of youths reject terrorism and radicalization and remain largely conservative in both their social and religious attitudes. Another misconception that this report addresses surrounds young migrants and their threat to developed economies. For the large part, the majority of Arab migrants tend to stay within the Arab region and those that do move beyond this region, only reflect a small number of these migrants. Finally, this report addressed the misconception that following the failures of the Arab Spring many Arab youths have become less interested in civic engagement and political change. The report found that this was not true as the Arab youth tended to be more politically engaged than their counterparts in other parts of the world.

Among its many recommendations, this report called for allowing more youth to have the opportunity to participate in the political sphere. This report highlighted the increasing gap between the Arab youth and other age groups within this region and shows that these individuals have limited opportunities within their societies. Since the youth represent the largest segment of society, it is important that they are able to participate in all aspects of it, including the political sphere. This report sheds light on this issue and should be utilized by policymakers in order to address societal issues which still plague the region. By addressing these issues, these policymakers have the potential for more positive change which may help with ending the conflicts that have plagued the region. It is important that the Arab youth are encouraged to be active participants in solving these issues.

Lillian Wetherspoon