Youth on the Edge of Hope

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Mon 22 August / Aug 2016. 09:17 PM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Indicators in the Arab World, generally, point to its inability to invest in its demographic opportunities. Contrarily, phenoms imply that they are completely wasted, the way we wasted many opportunities before.

This conclusion is based on many political and security actualities, including particularly wars and conflicts in the region, aside to the general economic downfall, as well as everything else in play regarding the multitude of global and regional factors. As long as we are immersed in war, we will not have the time, or power, to workout investments and development necessary to employ the energies of our youth effectively, in line with a clear sustainable developmental vision.

The population of the Arab World, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), is estimated at around 385 million people, which is almost 5.3 per cent of the world’s population. By 2030, the number is expected to reach 488 million, with youths between 15 and 24 years of age comprising nearly one 5th of the total Arab population.

According to the same source, youth within this age range has increased, as they form the driving power of production and labour in our Arab homeland, from 49 million youths in 1995 to 70 million in 2015, with the percentage of those at labour age reaching 63.4 per cent of the population, and the age dependency rate decreasing to 6 for every 10 at the age of labour.

The core issue lies in the fact that nearly one 3rd of the youth population, with all their energies, is suspended; unemployed, which is evidently a brewing threat! And it is, unfortunately, a generalizable issue across the Arab World. With exception to oil states, there isn’t a single Arab country free of this issue; unemployment rates among youths in the East ends of the Arab planes touch at 28 per cent, and the same goes for the west ends of the Arab World nearing 31 per cent, the highest in the world, with an all in all 42 per cent unemployment rate among female youths and 23 per cent among males.

Hence, the peril entailed by this issue lies in that it strikes at the heart of the most vital composites of society, whose stability is crucial to the development and sustainability of communities, and in that it suspends their capacities to achieve and be productive, economically, to begin with. Additionally, the political atmosphere in Arab societies, as well, happens to be extremely frustrating; as there is no window for them to participate in public life and contribute to decision making within the vaster majority of these societies.

More so, the forfeiting of the demographic opportunity means necessarily failure in the employment of massive young energies.

Even though much is said on employing youth energy, the limitations to that are larger in scale, and the political confliction, among other factors, dominating has eroded much hope of a joint Arab effort to resolve the problems of this particular social segment. We eventually find ourselves wasting our youths in wars and conflict, so much that they have become the fuels of our wars, instead of fuelling development and productivity.

On contraire of hope, we find youth drowned in unemployment and poverty; the international day for youth, August 12th, has passed with so many of them hanging on the edges of hope, at best, with some of them fallen in the pits of extremism among other deviations, at a time when others struggle to stay afloat, to keep hanging on; and we haven’t a clue how long they hang in there!

The UN Population Fund, in joint operation with several Arab governments to reinforce youth contributions to peace and security; encouraging their participation in civil life, says that many studies that our youths have been partaking in more protests and demonstrations that they do civic groups, let alone the elections. Why is that?

Most probably, the reason lies in that the options before them fail to convince them, and have not communicated to them, convincingly, that change can be attained peacefully. And perhaps because justice is absent, and their education is civil, with the services provided to them way below expectation and ambition. And more dangerously, our youths have lost all faith in the official Arab public instruments.

Similarly, youth across the Arab world, do not vary much when it comes to their frustration, even should the shells of their struggles differ.