As a young professional working in development, I have reached a point in rejecting any topic targeting youth as a separate theme or social group. The classical means and methods of discussing youth issues have proven their inadequacy in our world that has its own challenges and features. No more can we try or apply theories produced during the previous decades for our current societies, which are the most educated and urbanized in the history of the Arab region.
If we recall the revolutions and transformations that erupted in 2011, youth issues started being discussed in all platforms, where marginalization has been highlighted as a main reason for the youth grievances and anger that have been shaping the protests and movements all over the Arab world. Today, after five years, youth are recognized as the core of human development in the Arab world. This is clearly reflected in the Arab Human Development Report 2016 “Youth and the Prospects for Human Development in a Changing Reality” published by the United Nations Development Program and launched at the American University of Beirut on Nov. 29.
The report is inspired by the events of 2011, and constructs a rationale and reflective scientific production to discuss and propose concrete tools at various levels. The collective intellectual work of report authors who have wide and deep experiences in youth-related issues, have made from this report a scientific reference that all stakeholders in each state are obliged to translate into actions and initiatives.
According to the Arab Human Development Report 2016, it is unprecedented that youth constitute one-third of the Arab region’s population – equal to 105 million. The 2009 Arab Human Development Report addressed the alienation and marginalization of youth as a threat to human security and social instability.
The 2016 report sets out a road map for dealing with youth taking a holistic approach based on the notion that youth are no longer a “problem or a burden on development” but a main driving force for the development process in the Arab region.
Moreover, the report directly addresses public and governmental stakeholders with concrete and stimulating data, and advocating for engaging youth through institutionalized platforms that will provide them with opportunities for being an effective counterpart in decision-making. Education, job opportunities and health services are essential factors in responding to Arab youth aspirations but are not adequate anymore. Being part of any decision-making process is an equal priority to youth nowadays after the technological and educational developments attained in our region.
The holistic approach is ensured in the report through the three levels of reforms stated that vary between governmental sectorial and youth policies levels.
The first level is the “macropolicies” that govern the relationship between the state and citizens, and focus on building bridges of trust among them, and focus on the “macroeconomic structure” that ensures the creation of equal opportunities.
The second level focuses on sector-specific policies related to education, health and employment that ensure the provision of essential services to build youth capacities to be more productive and ready for running leading positions. As for the third position, this is related to national youth policies that are usually ineffective and superficial without any actions or means of responding to issues raised. Most importantly is the stress on the interrelation between the three reforms, as they shall be tackled simultaneously in a cross-cutting manner to achieve the short-term and long-term goals.
Launching the report at AUB, this historical educational hub, is symbolic enough to highlight the role of universities in this process as a main stakeholder in translating this report into an action-oriented road map to build the capacities of youth as leaders of the development process that will lead to the region’s reform at all levels.
Despite all the challenges and obstacles burdening Lebanon, who better than this state to act as a model and laboratory for youth empowerment?
Therefore, it is our responsibility to revive the role of Lebanon in the region as an educational mission and a model for youth empowerment.
Hiba Huneini is acting manager of the Youth & Civic Engagement Program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. Write to her at: [email protected]
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 10, 2016, on page 3.