Egyptian youth were the driving force behind the first and second revolutions that succeeded in ousting both Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi. “The revolution of the youth”, as it is called in Egypt, is a vivid example of the fact that the young people of the 21st century will not support an old patriarchal system that does not address their needs. The youth of today are more aware of their political rights than at any other time in history. They have been exposed to the experiences of the more advanced countries of the world and are empowered by social media technologies. The youth of Egypt should be commended for their continued demand to have their voices heard and for boldly rejecting the status quo of corruption and self-serving agendas.
However, the continued instability and the violence that has erupted in Egypt as a result is an issue of great concern. There are many lessons to be learned from the Egyptian revolution. Governments around the world are keen today not to commit the same mistakes made by the deposed Egyptian rulers. Political analysts warn of serious repercussions due to the state of instability that is threatening the entire region.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has not been affected by the violence and unrest that is going on in neighboring countries due to the fact that the government continues to recognize the immense potential of its young people and has set up programs to address the needs of the youth and develop their professional and vocational skills. There is a sense of urgency to address the challenges of young men and women and create better opportunities for them to participate in nation building. Saudi youth represent 70 percent of the population. According to 2012 official statistics, the Saudi population breaks down as follows:
• 0-14 years: 29.4 percent (male 3,939,377/female 3,754,020)
• 15-64 years: 67.6 percent (male 9,980,253/female 7,685,328)
• 65 years and over: 3 percent (male 404,269/female 368,456) (2011 est.)
The Council of Ministers and other state sectors are giving greater priority to youth-related issues. However, more should be done to guarantee a more effective contribution by young people who are an essential factor in the country’s economic and social development.
Education is the key to progress and development. Government officials continue to press for an acceleration of educational reforms and an upgrading of the educational system with more capable teaching faculties to establish world-class technical universities. The objective is to produce knowledgeable and competent graduates, capable of addressing the needs of a Saudi society that wants to succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive technology-driven world.
The Shoura Council’s Social, Family and Youth Affairs Committee earlier adopted a recommendation to restructure the Presidency of Youth Welfare and turn it into a ministry. The recommendation was based on the Presidency’s 2010 and 2011 annual reports. However, it is very unfortunate that the Council voted against it. A ministry concerned with issues important to our youth would be in a better position to formulate effective strategies with meaningful funds and human resources to achieve the aspirations of our young people befitting the country’s reputation and position.
A Ministry of Youth Affairs would be the ideal solution for protecting the rights of our young people and promoting their interests and well-being. It is crucial now to implement well-researched strategies that can be more effective in eradicating poverty and in providing job opportunities, better wages and more decent housing conditions in order to build a healthy, productive generation.
Perhaps including a youth committee in the Shoura Council could be a more effective means of addressing the needs of our large and expanding youth population.
The Middle East is going through difficult times of sectarian violence and unrest. Therefore, it is more important for us now to protect our nation from instigators of sectarian hate. The future of our youth should not be compromised.
Upgrading the level of our educators and religious figures requires better recognition and more social support. More effective nationwide campaigns are essential for ensuring our national security and promoting moderation and tolerance among Saudi youth. There is a desperate need for an effective awareness campaign to inform the public about the dangers of extremism and to protect our nation from the instigators of sectarianism within society. Therefore, it is important that the government, academic institutions, businesses and NGOs continue to encourage youth participation and also provide equal opportunities for young people to identify their challenges and needs.
The country will only prosper if the youth of all the regions are given equal opportunities and a life of dignity. The rights of our young people should be respected. We must enforce laws to protect them and create policies to address their needs.
The state remains responsible for enforcing the necessary laws that can ensure the safety and well-being of our young people. It is time to involve our youth in research related to their current challenges, and use their input to develop policies that ensure their rights. Our young people can provide accurate information that will allow decision makers to formulate more effective youth-related policies, laws and regulations.
Economists assert that the future of a country depends on its youth, and giving them an opportunity can lead the nation to greater heights.
King Abdullah’s reforms have given the younger generation greater attention, and national budgets have been geared to education and the development of youth-related affairs. However, it is important to assess the development of these programs in order to ensure that they are on the right track. Perhaps strategies should be revised for maximum effect. Youth empowerment policies should be implemented to advance the most valuable human resource of the country, and better incentives should be provided to support law-abiding contributing Saudi youth. Their success or failure could influence the direction of our nation.
– Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at email@example.com