RAFIAH AL TALEI
Sada spoke to Arab youth about their hopes and wishes for the new year, which spanned everything from civil and political rights, to education, to arts and culture.
Arab youth want to see fundamental changes in political and civil rights, the economy, education, technology, and peace and conflict resolution in the Middle East and North Africa. This has been illustrated in a mini poll conducted by Sada that sought to explore young Arabs’ priorities and what they consider essential to improve political, economic, and social conditions in their countries.
The participants’ answers varied according to each country and its unique circumstances, but it is remarkable that the youth in their entirety agreed that the participation of young people in political and economic decision-making, the reduction of unemployment rates, the improvement of economic conditions, and the liberation of Arab markets from rentier economic systems are among the basic factors necessary for state stability and preventing political turmoil. Civil and political rights enshrined under the rule of law and existing alongside social justice topped the list of demands, as well as respect for freedom of opinion and expression and the upholding of human rights. Economic development and creating suitable economic environments for young people ranked second in the list of demands that Arab youth want in the new year.
In Arab countries experiencing armed conflict such as Yemen, Syria, and Libya, ending their respective wars and conflicts has been a top priority, in addition to restoring peace and stability. Improving the economy was their second priority, closely followed by improving the education system, ensuring public freedoms, and respecting human rights.
Arab Youth’s Top Priorities
- Guaranteeing civil and political rights
- Developing the economy and reducing unemployment
- Improving education and promoting technological advancement
- Ending wars and division/peace and stability
- Respecting women’s rights
- Sponsoring/supporting culture and arts
We received 79 submissions from 19 Arab countries, with the most participation coming from Jordan (12), Morocco (10), Iraq (10), and then Yemen and Libya (6 each). The rest of the Arab countries were represented by a range of one to four participants. Most of the participants were females, with 44 young women participating in the survey, while 35 young men participated. The participation varied between 32 written responses and 46 recorded video responses. Women participated in 27 video responses and 17 written responses, while men participated in 19 video responses and 16 written responses. It should be noted that the lists of priorities did not differ much between male and female participants. The order of priorities were uniform, but a focus on women’s rights and supporting culture and the arts appeared in the female participants’ lists only.
Sada asked participants, aged 21-35 years, this question: What change would you like to see in your country next year? And why do you think this change is important to your country and its citizens? The educational and employment backgrounds of the participants varied, along with the regions and cities they come from. Ultimately, however, their concerns and aspirations settled on providing a safe environment for youth to engage in political participation and decision-making, as well as respecting freedom of opinion, expression, and the press. In addition, the participants emphasized combating political and economic corruption, distributing wealth more equitably, decreasing unemployment, and ensuring social justice. Youth also agreed on improving education levels and curricula in their respective countries, as well as supporting their information technology sectors to keep up with rapid technological development currently taking place in the world. Arab youth’s responses and wide-ranging aspirations for the new year are exhibited in the following text.
I believe that change starts with education. If education is in good shape, then the status of the citizen and the country will be good. Education is the foundation and the starting point for a better future. Poor education services in the country are the reason for the chaos we are in now.
Regarding the issue of elections, there are fears that the results of the elections in the country will not be accepted by armed parties, regardless of the integrity of the elections.
—Khawla Al-Amin, Sirte
Elections are a complex issue in Libya and the situation is getting worse little by little. There are two things hindering the political and developmental movement in the country. First, politicians have monopolized the decision-making power by using quotas as a way to fill positions, leaving the majority of the populations marginalized. Second, the misdistribution of money has created a very large gap between citizens that reinforces marginalization and creates a desire for revenge on those who caused it. It is necessary to change these basic practices in order to reduce the frightening hierarchical system. I hope that the behavior of some politicians will change because their actions have reinforced the division in Libya. When faced with any problem, the officials immediately seek help from outside, even if it is at the expense of public interest.
—Ezzedine Ahmed, Tripoli
Social justice is the foundation of everything. This is an important change that I aspire to, as I have lived through difficult days due to the absence of social justice and rule of law, which created a feeling of inequality and marginalization. There are privileges and opportunities that are exclusive to a particular group of society. In our country, ordinary citizens are excluded from good employment, banking facilities, good housing, and treatment abroad. I have lived most of my life in a simple, small house in a slum in the middle of the country with no infrastructure services. I think social justice and the rule of law is the basis of everything, and the rest should be left to competition and diligence.
—Sama, Employee – Tripoli
I hope to witness real stability in my country, free from problems, fear, and daily acts of violence. Without stability, there can be no ambitions, dreams, or development. We need to activate the youth and involve them in state institutions and local organizations. I want the government to focus on effective youth development.
I would also like to see environmental policies get as much attention that is given to political affairs. Environmental policy determines the general shape of the state. I also wish the government would pay attention to research and educational development centers in the country.
—Malak – Environmental Policy Researcher – Tripoli