Young people are an asset for governments

They provide an active workforce that can drive economic growth and productivity and bring greater innovation to the economy

By Khalifa Alzaabi

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Published: Sun 13 Nov 2022, 9:14 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Nov 2022, 9:15 PM

Youth must find a greater voice in diplomacy and government. Some might say that placing young people in positions of responsibility will lead to more chaos and destruction on the global stage. However, history has shown that most wars and conflicts are caused by the incompetence of senior figures in government, particularly those who are disconnected from the general public and their views.

More than 50% of the population in the Middle Eastern region are below 30 years, with 29 representing the average median in the Middle Eastern region. That is over 350 million young people, though most of the youth are in the following countries: Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Yemen. (Statista, 2020). Wealthier countries in the region tend to have less children in general. However, that does not mean that youth participation in diplomacy should be any less.

Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter today play an important role in communications. Public information and communication efforts that are tailored to the media habits of young people can result in an increasing uptake of opportunities to get involved and ultimately strengthen the legitimacy of political decisions and increase trust in government. This is not only important in countries in which a significant share of the total population can be considered “youth”, like in the Middle East, but also more globally as young people have expressed their discontent with existing mechanisms to raise their concerns and influence the decision-making process.

A large young population can be an asset for governments. They provide an active workforce that can drive economic growth and productivity and bring greater innovation to the economy. On the other hand, this demographic dividend is strongly dependent on sufficient economic opportunity being available. The youth population also represents an important share of voters and can play an active part in shaping political and social discourse. Yet in many countries youth populations also express frustration with political systems. Ensuring the active engagement of young men and women in advancing an open government agenda is therefore essential to mitigate the risks of political, economic and social marginalization, and to assume agency in shaping their lives, societies and economies.

Most Middle Eastern countries are working hard to incorporate youth into their governmental and non-governmental efforts to uplift and catapult their economies and societies. In 2016, the UAE established the Federal Youth Authority to implement a National Youth Strategy that would cultivate an optimal ecosystem for the youth. In the same year, the Federal Youth Authority launched the United Nations Youth Delegates Programme.

Youth delegates are annually selected and interviewed to accompany the UAE's official delegation to the United Nations. Prior to traveling, selected candidates consult with the Emirates Youth Council and the local forums on issues to raise at the UN. In 2020 and 2021, the program sent an average of 10 students to the event. The UAE Federal Youth Authority also held the Arab Youth Forum in which 150 exceptional youth between the ages of 15 and 30 from 22 different Arab nations got together to discuss ways to shape the region's future.

The leaders of the UAE and GCC are involving youth to take an active role in governance as the region modernises and creates a stronger Arab world. I, for one, cannot wait to see where all of this will take us, and I invite all of you to be watchful and attentive of this budding movement.

- Khalifa Alzaabi is an Emirati student doing his bachelor's degree in International Relations and Computer Science. He is based in Moscow

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