Two years after a wave of Arab revolts began, much of the region is suffering political and economic instability, or worse. But across the region, a new survey says that young people remain optimistic about their own futures, and that of the region.
As The National reported yesterday, polling in 15 countries by Asda'a Burson-Marsteller found that 74 per cent of Arab youth aged 18 to 24 believe that "our best days are ahead of us".
However, respondents expressed some concerns, the main one being the rising cost of living, and they placed the highest priority on financial and home security. More than 80 per cent of the 3,000 young men and women who took part in the Arab Youth Survey named a fair rate of pay as their highest priority, followed by home ownership.
Across the Middle East, residents of many countries must endure civil unrest, sectarian tensions and problems of governance - not to mention violence. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, poll respondents all across the region seem to be more concerned with economic challenges than with political and social ones.
This is natural, since unemployment across the Middle East is double the global average and, the International Labour Organization reports, the region's jobless rates are expected to become even worse this year. If you can't find a job, broader economic conditions naturally take a back seat to the immediate problem.
The polling also found that the UAE is seen by Arab youth as a model for other nations, and the top choice of countries to live in, followed by France and the United States. And Emirati youth expressed a high degree of confidence that their country is heading in the right direction. This is hardly surprising: prosperous, open, stable and growing, the UAE is in many ways the region's most successful country.
Considering all of the problems across the Middle East and North Africa, the overall optimism found by the survey may seem surprising. But it is in the nature of young people to be optimistic. The challenge for all governments is to channel the hopeful energy of youth in ways that will allow young people to build the lives they aspire to.
When a society deprives its people of ways to realise their hopes, the result can be serious trouble, as a number of overthrown dictators could confirm.
Arab and Muslim countries, most of them with youthful, growing populations, need to find ways to create opportunities commensurate with the hopes of their peoples.