Arab re­gion’s young peo­ple no ‘li­a­bil­ity’

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

RIYADH:

Arab lead­ers must treat the re­gion’s 100 mil­lion young peo­ple as an as­set, not a li­a­bil­ity, the UN’s youth en­voy said in Saudi Ara­bia yes­ter­day. “This is a gen­er­a­tion that is so will­ing to con­trib­ute,” but is be­set by ob­sta­cles in the 22-na­tion re­gion plagued by con­flict since a wave of Arab up­ris­ings de­mand­ing re­form erupted af­ter late 2010, Ah­mad Al­hen­dawi told the MiSK Global Fo­rum.

Re­leas­ing fig­ures from a forth­com­ing study, he said the re­gion’s av­er­age age is below 25 — but the av­er­age age of Arab world politi­cians is 58. “This re­gion has the high­est rate of youth protest if you com­pare it to all other re­gions in the world,” said Al­hen­dawi, a Jor­da­nian named to the post in 2013. He said two-thirds of Arab women are look­ing for jobs. A sep­a­rate re­port by the United Na­tions la­bor agency in Au­gust showed that Arab states count the world’s high­est youth un­em­ploy­ment rate, above 30 per­cent.

Over­all, the re­gion needs to cre­ate 60 mil­lion jobs by 2020, Al­hen­dawi said. Even though that fig­ure seems un­reach­able, he said the re­gion should es­tab­lish “an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment” which would make it eas­ier for young peo­ple to start busi­nesses, and where they are seen “as an as­set, not as a li­a­bil­ity”. At the mo­ment, start­ing a new busi­ness “is al­most a mis­sion im­pos­si­ble”, he told the fo­rum which brings busi­ness lead­ers to­gether with young Saudis in a bid to in­spire their in­volve­ment in di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the king­dom’s oilde­pen­dent econ­omy.

Al­hen­dawi said young peo­ple’s use of so­cial me­dia shows “they are in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics and they are in­ter­ested in pub­lic life”, though not in the for­mal in­sti­tu­tions of govern­ment. He said the Arab world it­self con­tains the so­lu­tions to its prob­lems. “This is our re­gion,” he told the hun­dreds of del­e­gates. “We have to re­claim it.”

The fo­rum, which con­tin­ues to­day, is or­ga­nized by the MiSK Foun­da­tion which aims to gen­er­ate youth ini­tia­tive. It was founded by 31-year-old Deputy Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Salman, who in April launched the wide-rang­ing Vi­sion 2030 plan for en­hanc­ing the role of the pri­vate sec­tor as part of eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion.

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