The large youth generation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region contains great potential. They are better educated than their parents’ generation and they share knowledge across social divisions and country borders. During the so-called Arab Spring the youth demonstrated themselves capable of organisation to create positive change in their societies.
Nonetheless, significant challenges are still being felt by the young population today. This is especially true when it comes to participation in the development of society and the exercising of their social, political and economic rights. Without investing in the more than 100 million youths in the region, it is not possible to realise the vision of, among others, the Danish Arab Partnership Programme of a democratic and economically strong MENA region.
Development created with and by youth
The Danish Youth Council (DUF) works to help youths in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia engage as democratic agents of change and advocates for diversity and inclusion. The work is carried out through the new ‘Youth Culture and Diversity’ project under the Danish Arab Partnership Programme (DAPP) Youth Pool in a collaboration with five organisations: YMCA Scouts, Les Scouts Tunisiens, DEDI – the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Initiative and East and West Center for Sustainable Development in Jordan. They all have many years of experience working with youth through the DAPP in the region.
Young volunteers are the core of the project’s activities. They carry out workshops, design and conduct youth-led projects in their communities, influence the strategic direction of the projects and participate in and strengthen the democratic build-up of the local partner organisations. This way the youths are not just passive beneficiaries, but rather active co-creators and agents of change.
The project helps develop, implement and document innovative ways of youth engagement. By using this approach, we strengthen the ability of local CSOs, institutions and other actors in the region to include the youth and we contribute to the creation of democratic and inclusive platforms for social engagement and cultural development of youths.
A particular focus will be on the inclusion of a wide range of youths and to enable positive interactions across ideological, economic and cultural divisions. The project aims to reach young people who normally have a hard time gaining access to influence through a youth-to-youth approach. These include young women, marginalised minorities and young people in rural areas or disenfranchised parts of bigger cities. By strengthening the opportunities and inclusion of these youths the risk of their detachment from society and radicalisation is greatly diminished.
Efforts are built on strong results
The project is built on remarkable results and strong existing partnerships. Since 2008 the YMCA Scouts have worked closely with Les Scouts Tunisiens, the largest CSO in Tunisia, and their efforts have achieved widespread recognition, for instance from the former Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid, who has highlighted the special role being played by Les Scouts Tunisiens in protecting young people from extremisms and fanaticism.
With support from DAPP, the Les Scouts Tunisiens have reformed into an independent and democratic organisation, where women and youths have influence. The partners have developed training in entrepreneurship for young Tunisians, which has helped create jobs and inspired the state-run entrepreneur education in Tunisia. Furthermore, young Tunisians have been trained in democratic and social participation in society and agents of change.
Since 2009, the DUF has also trained young volunteers as dialogue ambassadors in Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia and they have become known for their creative ways of working with diversity, youth participation and co-existence. The dialogue tools have spread through manuals and training to CSOs in both the MENA region and Denmark.
In the next four years the partner organisations behind ‘Youth Culture and Diversity’ project will contribute to enhancing the influence and participation of youth and help improve and innovate ways of strengthening youth participation in the MENA region.