HE Shamma Al Mazrui-1601976008862
Speaking at the launching of Arab Youth Survey in Dubai on Tuesday, Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chairperson of the Federal Youth Authority, says Young Arabs believe their voice can make a difference. Image Credit:

Dubai: Arab youth feel they don’t have a voice, which could be among the main reasons why they want to leave their countries, a UAE minister said against the background of new findings released on Tuesday.

Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chairperson of the Federal Youth Authority, said results of the ‘12th Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey’ suggest that nearly half of Arab youth in the Mena region consider leaving their countries for a better life.

“It implies that they do not believe that they have a voice. And that indicates a loss of hope. That is precisely why data from the Arab Youth Survey can help us globally. It highlights what happens if and when governments and leaders do not listen. The reality of the Arab Youth Survey points exactly to hope. Because it gave youth a voice to tell us exactly what they think, who they are and what they want. Youth gave us the raw data, and the answers are in plain sight,” she added.

Youth want ‘integrity’ from leaders

In her remarks during a special address at the launch of the survey on Tuesday, Al Mazrui said the data from the survey means that young Arabs want leadership that listens. “They demand integrity and a hope for positive change in their nations and throughout their lives. Young Arabs believe their voice can make a difference, and they are willing to be part of the solution to the problems that the region faces. It is up to all of us, especially governments, to create an ecosystem for youth of positive opportunity, identity, belonging and purpose. This is the key to all of our 21st century economy solutions.”

UAE’s youth strategy

Al Mazrui said the UAE has a National Youth Strategy which “translates the voice of youth into action”. She added: “Every day in the UAE, we work hard so that the voice of Emirati youth shapes every sector of policy and society. Central to achieving our mission is the philosophy and consistent daily practice of directly engaging youth. The Arab Youth Survey truly is ‘A Voice for Change’ and must be a map for governments to engage, equip and ultimately empower their youth. It is an unmistakable call to work together as Arab nations. We know that’s a tall order worth filling and are making our National Youth model available to everyone.”

Greatest risk is not taking risks

Al Mazrui said the rewards of an inclusive approach is worth the risk, as the “Arab world’s greater risk is not taking radical risks to empower the youth. Here in the UAE, engaging and empowering youth is central to the National Youth Strategy, and this reflected in the data from the survey”.

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Commenting on the survey, which includes the key finding that for the ninth consecutive year, Arab youth see the UAE as the top country to live in and emulate, citing safety, security, well-paying work opportunities and a good place to raise a family, Al Mazrui added: “We are so proud to receive this acknowledgement from youth throughout the region. And we know how much work this invites us to do throughout the Middle East and North Africa [Mena] nations.”

Danger of extremism

Later in the day, in a video message during a virtual conference discussing the survey’s key findings, Al Mazrui said “the alternatives [to ignoring youth] are unacceptable”.

She added: “The growing gaps in youth education, youth employment, youth positive engagement, create ripe conditions for extremists’ recruits… And as we’ve seen far too often in the past 10 years, hopelessness results when youth are not employed, apathy results when youth are not seen as assets, and violence results when youth are not valued, uprisings result when youth are not uplifted. And it’s up to all of us, especially governments, to create an ecosystem of positive opportunities, identity, belonging and purpose for youth.”

The findings of MENA’s largest independent study on youth conducted for leading PR agency ASDA’A BCW by PSB, a global strategic research and analytics consultancy, reveals the opinions of young Arabs on a range of subject. These include the anti-government protests that raged through parts of the region during the past year, gender rights, personal identity, employment, personal debt, foreign relations and media consumption.