It is frustrating and disappointing to see that unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is rising, while it is falling in the rest of the world.
This depressing news is contained in a recent report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), which also pointed out that economies are stagnating and poverty is on the rise.
Joblessness among the youth in the MENA region is at a staggering 30 percent, more than double that of the 13 percent average in the rest of the world. This undoubtedly means more terrorism, violence and crime.
Our young people are falling victim to the policies adopted by many governments focusing on political gamesmanship and militarization rather than human and economic development strategies.
To the embarrassment of Arabs, the ILO report shows that there is a decline in unemployment in several less developed nations in parts of Africa and the Caribbean.
The Arab world is in a grievous state. The cancer of terrorism in Syria has infected the entire region and is threatening world peace.Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
The question now is what future is there for our young people living in countries where there is little prospect of gainful employment and living dignified and productive lives.
These young people are the victims of marginalization, exploitation and inadequate education, which should be considered criminal acts. No wonder then that they are risking their lives on boats heading for Europe, in a desperate search for a decent life.
Cancer of terrorism
The Arab world is in a grievous state. The cancer of terrorism in Syria has infected the entire region and is threatening world peace. It has become a hotbed for thugs and proxy wars.
The slaughter of innocents and the displacement of millions into camps to eke out a living are happening while the Syrian regime looks on coldly. Worst of all, the international community seems unwilling to act decisively, with only intermittent emotional reactions.
Iraq, once a prosperous land because of its oil wealth and most educated populace in the region, has been plunged into what appears to be a perpetual winter with corrupt external powers, in collusion with local politicians, siphoning off its resources.
There is a similar situation in Libya, wracked by a destructive civil war and with politicians and government employees representing no one but themselves, to the detriment of the people.
The only solution to fight terrorism is to invest in human development... It is also no longer enough to blame the West for all the region’s problems.Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
In Yemen, Iran is trying that age-old colonial tactic of divide and rule, by attempting to split the country into distinct northern and southern regions. Yemenis are barely scraping by, and have been forced to stand in long queues for handouts from international aid agencies.
The region’s economic malaise has certainly increased conflict and terrorism. As the world shifts its attention to other parts of the globe with competitively priced sources of energy, further economic decline in the Gulf and elsewhere can be expected, exposing systemic problems that can no longer be hidden.
The only solution to fight terrorism is to invest in human development. If people have hope they can appreciate life. It is also no longer enough to blame the West for all the region’s problems. Western countries are now only concerned about how to keep refugees out.
The irony is that the United Nations, in reports back in 2012, had predicted political unrest and internal disputes in the region if there was no development in human resources, particularly spending on education, health and job creation.
There were several other reports that reached the same conclusion. How many reports must tell us the same story before we act? It is not too late, but delaying further may result in an irreversible economic tragedy for millions.
This article was first published in Arab News on Oct. 14, 2015.
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi
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