Partnering with Youth to Build Democratic Societies in the Arab Region
Egypt: Assessing Governance from
a Youth Perspective
In Egypt, young men and women drove the 25 January revolution because they have been economically, socially and politically excluded. As the country now moves forward with a new government and Constitution, a DGTTF-backed project will work through an experienced national partner, the Social Contract Center, on youth-focused governance assessments focused on public services that will intersect with a national assessment process. In the education, health, and water and sanitation sectors, young researchers and youth-led NGOs will learn to collect data; develop an assessment methodology hinging on youth interviews, focus group discussions and questionnaires; and share and validate findings. These will inform evidence-based policy recommendations and/or a Youth Charter. Based on the assessments, a second project component will offer tailored human rights-based civic education programmes to youth. A capacity-building initiative will help young civil servants foster the fair, effective and transparent management of public services.
Algeria: New Resources for Civil Society
The DGTTF-assisted project will help strengthen the capacities of civil society associations—a quarter of which are focused on youth—to design and implement initiatives to improve the services they provide. Current governance reforms in Algeria are notable for a new willingness to support civil society in its mediating role between citizens and government. The project hinges on the creation of a resource centre for civil society that will be the first of its kind in Algeria. It plans to work towards establishing nationally available training for these groups, improving access to information, and setting up permanent local support systems in pilot districts. It will emphasize collaboration and networking across different civil society organizations.
Yemen: An Observatory for Youth
The UNDP Strategy of Response to Transformative Change Championed by Youth in the Arab Region prioritizes youth as a positive force for social change. In Yemen, a DGTTF-assisted initiative will help establish the Yemeni Youth Observatory as an important step towards engaging youth and society at large in the formulation of major youth-related policies. It is planned as an inclusive, sustainable watchdog that can advocate for youth. The Observatory is expected to monitor the situation of young people, perform youth-sensitive analyses and make evidence-based policy recommendations. It will be developed through a wide consultative process involving youth from urban and rural areas, along with academic institutions, think-tanks and other relevant organizations. Once the observatory is operating, the project will assist it in producing an initial set of proposed policy priorities.
Libya: Monitoring Transition and Reporting on Governance
At a time when Libya is redefining its social contract, and revising core social and economic policies, reliable data will be critical to informed decision-making, including on youth priorities. Young people’s voices need to be reflected, as recognized by the Libyan Transitional Government, which has made youth empowerment a top priority. The DGTTF-supported project intends to provide training to youth-led advocacy organizations on governance assessments. It will assist the development of an indicator framework on degrees of youth participation and the mainstreaming of youth issues—covering processes such as debates in the National Transitional Council, national reconciliation efforts, the creation of a Constitution and political party development. Youth groups will learn to collect data under the framework, and disseminate it to policy-makers and the general public. The project will be positioned to catalyse a Libyan Youth Observatory, a concept that has not previously existed in the country.
Somalia: Empowerment from the District Up
At the district level, local development plans have great potential for responding to the needs of Somalia’s youth, whether in terms of service delivery or in encouraging their constructive participation in society. Local engagement can also become a launching pad for the broader participation of young people in state and national political processes, particularly in light of the expected transition to a permanent constitutional order. The DGTTF-supported project will support the establishment of youth committees in 20 districts, and train them on leadership and organizational skills. It aims to work concurrently with district councils and safety committees to raise awareness of the importance of taking the voices of youth into account, and harnessing their energy as agents of positive change. Youth from different districts will come together at the regional and national level to promote their agenda, and interface with political leaders managing the transition process.
Jordan: A Digital Game on Local Governance
The use of new media is a promising trend in Jordan, where Internet penetration is expected to top 100 percent by 2015. The DGTTF-assisted project intends to harness digital dividends to improve youth participation in local governance, as well as identify barriers to involvement and propose recommendations to remove them. The project plans to create a youth portal, housed at a university, which will serve as a hub for information and tools that youth can use to learn about governance processes. An assessment component will solicit their views to inform policy making. One particularly novel aspect will be a ‘digital game’—players can experience different local governance scenarios, such as those linked to planning and allocating resources, and responding to the demands of civil society. With greater knowledge of how government functions, youth should be better able to participate and demand greater accountability, including for initiatives to meet their needs.
Palestinian Programme: A Role in Oversight and Public Decisions
In the occupied Palestinian Territory, there is no systematic oversight of local authorities. Youth participation in community affairs is negligible, with a cultural emphasis on adults as the drivers of decisions. Aligned with the National Palestinian Youth Sector Strategy, the DGTTF-assisted project will attempt to foster both greater civic oversight and youth involvement with local authorities. It will seek to catalyse changes in norms around holding public officials accountable, and the role of youth in public policy-making and programming. The project will look for ways to involve young people in developing policies and providing services, while helping prepare youth, particularly young women, to participate in upcoming local council elections so that the number of young council members increases. It will assist in producing citizen report cards and, based on the results, in advocacy to encourage responsive actions by local officials.
Iraq: A National Youth Council to Bridge Divides
To help deepen and sustain the fledgling Iraqi system of democratic governance, young men and women need a permanent platform to engage with Parliament, and influence current debates as well as exercise oversight. Young people have recently walked the streets to call for better public services, but there is little history of their participation in formal political processes where decisions are made. The DGTTF-aided project will assist in connecting youth networks to inform the workings of the newly created National Youth Council—the first forum of its kind in Iraq. The project will provide training on leadership, citizenship and democratic values, with an emphasis on bridging sectarian, religious and gender divides. It will help members of the council develop capacities for interacting with parliamentarians, and draft a platform for change and peace that crosses party lines, and factors in gender and minority concerns.
The new report reveals that although the majority of Somali youth believe they have a right to education and to decent work, they feel disempowered by multiple structural barriers which have created a high level of frustration and discontentment among young people. Therefore, radical shifts in policies and attitudes are needed in order to empower and place them at the core of the development agenda.
About half Qatar’s population is under age 20. Investing in Qatar’s youth will provide young men and women with opportunities and choices throughout their lifetime. Beyond being beneficiaries of development, Qatar’s third National Human Development Report sees youth as a critical force in shaping national development.