The UAE's appeal as a model country for Arab youth who prefer stability over democracy is growing by the year. The results of the Arab Youth Survey, while not surprising, suggest that young people in the region are growing increasingly selective when it comes to political systems, and favour the one that delivers basic needs while opening avenues for growth that fulfills their aspirations. It proves that young Arabs are pragmatic and aware of the shifting geopolitical landscape. They realise that attempts at enforcing democracy in the region by the West have failed and an Arab system of inspired governance has taken root the UAE. Looking around, they see many rifts and renewed strife. Take the case of Iraq where political and sectarian violence continues to spread. Lebanon remains in a stalemate as different factions and religious groups fatten themselves on the spoils of decades-old civil war
A Western idea of democracy is, therefore, seen as a poor fit in the complex cultural, ethnic and religious fabric of the region - one size doesn’t fit all. Simply put, in the Middle East, it’s still premature to talk of full democracy without securing the region and its resources whilst ensuring people have a better life, free from conflict. The youth know that social order is important and political skullduggery is not their cup of tea. However, an Arab variation of parliamentary democracy could be in the works, and the UAE has already set in motion such a process with elections to the Federal National Council.
This country stands out for its stable and secure system of governance that ensures continuity. The leadership is not just in step but is ahead of the times when it comes to changes in the administrative process; reforms are ongoing; participation by the people is encouraged, and the leadership is clearly driving the change while setting an example both at home and abroad as it pursues an Arab Renaissance driven by creativity, technology, a strong economy, and boundless knowledge. It is often said that the country has visionary rulers who derive inspiration from the people who trust them. Governance in the UAE is 24/7; it is digital and cuts through the red tape and bureaucracy. In short, it works and has smartness and resilience built into it. Arab youth acknowledge the success of the government and have given the rulers a thumbs-up.
Why, one may yet wonder. The Arab Spring protests and the violent aftermath are still fresh in people’s minds when extremists led by the Muslim Brotherhood riding on a youth movement against corrupt governments came to power in some Middle Eastern countries just over a decade ago. Protests were stoked by extremist politicians after a youth set himself on fire in Tunis. The spark was lit, and huge demonstrations were taken out in countries like Algeria, Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Disorder and chaos prevailed. Regimes fell and took their countries' economies and societies down with them. These included Libya and Algeria. In Syria and Iraq, however, these protests morphed into a wave of terror led by the brutal Daesh group that captured vast areas until they were driven out in 2016. With the bloody events of the past decade still fresh in memory, Arab youth believe stable governments provide prosperity and a new start as they launch careers and lives away from fear. They can afford to dream in countries like the UAE where they are welcomed with open arms and are free to think, imagine and innovate for the Arab Renaissance.
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