Leading experts in Saudi Arabia have said the voices of Arab youth must be heard and decision-makers in the Middle East & North Africa must heed their call-to-action to build the next generation a better future.
The 13th Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey was released on Tuesday and found, despite the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread economic turbulence, and ongoing military conflicts in parts of the region, Arab youth in MENA overall were surprisingly hopeful and optimistic about the future, with nearly two-thirds (60 percent) saying their best days lay ahead of them.
Veteran Saudi editor Khaled Almaeena highlighted the value of the data underpinning the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey.
“In a region where accurate information is sometimes in short supply, these findings offer a refreshing insight into the mindset of young Arabs,” he said.
“These hopeful citizens, who live in a society that is part-tribal and part-patriarchal, need an environment that will allow them to articulate, and then strive towards, their own vision.”
Almaeena added, “They want their voices to be heard because they are the future of this region; they are stakeholders, not merely bystanders.”
Highlighting the positivity of the findings, Dania Khaled al-Maeena, CEO of Aloula Non-Profit Organization, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, added: “Arab youth’s hope for the future is extremely refreshing.”
“They are excited about the future, which is a sentiment we see on the ground in Saudi Arabia. Youth are now more creative; many no longer want a steady government job like their parents had. Instead, they want to do what they are passionate about,” she added.
“But we can’t take the optimism of our young people for granted. We must bridge the gap between the education sector and the needs of the workplace. This will involve creating new skill sets to ensure our youth are prepared for the new economy.”
A wide cross-section of Middle Eastern experts, including representatives from government, multilateral institutions, civil society, media, academia and the literary world, also commented on the survey.
Yousef al-Otaiba, Ambassador of the UAE to the US and UAE Minister of State, said: “The data reflected in the 13th ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey indicates a shift is pulsating within the region; one that bends toward a more hopeful outlook for our youth, yet confirms a series of profound changes currently underway.”
“A rising spirit of nationalism is gaining resonance for Arab youth. This generation is increasingly looking inward at their Arab brethren for leadership,” he added.
“A growing self-reliance on ourselves, especially model Arab nations like the UAE, is fueling this pride. As the UAE celebrates the Expo 2020 Dubai and marks the Golden Jubilee of our nation’s formation in December, we feel hope for the future, which coincidentally is the title of this year’s Arab Youth Survey.”
Dr. Jihad Azour, director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, Washington DC, said that the survey results show that Arab youth are looking to the future with confidence.
“We have a call to action, and decision-makers must examine the impact of the findings on government policy closely, including both the areas of common ground and the areas where the data diverges,” Azour said.
“To achieve the aspirations of Arab youth, we must increase financial inclusion, providing our young Arab entrepreneurs ready access to affordable finance… They must have a level playing field, where red tape and the interference of the state in economic management is kept to a minimum. And we need a new, citizen-based social contract.”