Young Arab Voices: Moving Youth Policy from Debate into Action

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Since the uprisings of what has been popularly termed the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, a number of youth training programmes have been instigated by European and US cultural institutions to build local capacity and respond to growing demands among young people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to engage in new forms of civil society activism and prepare themselves for a fuller civic role. The research for this paper took place throughout November 2015. The methodologies used were focus group discussions and interviews with young people from Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco who have had varying degrees of experience with YAV, including those currently enrolled in the project, alumni and ‘key informants’. In coordination with British Council and Anna Lindh Foundation partners in each country, focus group participants and interviewees were identified from established in-country networks and invited to participate. This paper provides only a snapshot of how a small number of the region’s youth view the causal links between the frustrations that many openly admit to experiencing and the kind of remedies and approaches needed to move their lives on to a more socially integrated and secure footing. None of the sample interviewed see violence as the way forward, nor do they mention ISIS as an immediate preoccupation except in so far as it distorts the external image and prospects for their societies, or in the context of the destabilizing effects of terrorist attacks across the region and in Europe. A clear priority that emerged from the interviews and focus groups was the need to address existing issues at the very root of their causes. Much emphasis was of course placed on the standard of education within societies and communities, on the culture that this creates in the digital age, and on how the education system caters for the development of the individuals that it produces.


Claire Spencer, Saad Aldouri

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