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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

A decade of change leaves youth with hopes and fears

In the Arab Youth Survey, amid optimism there are concerns about jobs and terrorism

The reforms undertaken by Saudi Arabia's young Crown Prince have sought to deliver exactly the things Arab youth say they most want: jobs, education, clean governance. AP Photo
The reforms undertaken by Saudi Arabia's young Crown Prince have sought to deliver exactly the things Arab youth say they most want: jobs, education, clean governance. AP Photo

The arc of the Arab world comprises enormous human, geographic and economic diversity. In modern times, parts of the region – historically a zone of bustling commerce, trade and innovation – have for too long been held back by self-serving leaders and a lack of opportunities. It should come as no surprise that of the 3,500 people from 16 countries interviewed for the 10th Arab Youth Survey, a majority of young people who believed the region had moved in the wrong direction were concentrated in North Africa and the Levant. The youth in these places have been exposed over the past decade to the fallout from the Arab Spring and the rise of ISIS.

The survey, titled A Decade of Hopes and Fears, reveals that the chief priorities of the young are defeating terrorism, creating well-paying jobs, improving education and cracking down on corruption. There is a remarkable convergence between the aspirations of Arab youth and the ambitions of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His reforms over the past year have sought to deliver the very things young Arabs most want: jobs, education, openness and corruption-free governance.

There is a near-universal approval of Prince Mohammed’s modernisation drive. If the Arab Spring and ISIS generated fears, Prince Mohammed embodies the hopes of the young. The confidence in his leadership among Saudi men is 91 per cent; among women, it is 94 per cent. He is the leader Arab youth say will have the greatest impact in the region over the next decade.

For the seventh year in a row, the UAE is seen by young Arabs as the most desirable place to live in the region. This is a vindication of the policies of UAE’s leaders, who have created an economy where opportunities are abundant and health services and education are world-class. Unsurprisingly, it is also the country most Arabs want their own nations to emulate. Thanks to the example of the UAE and the overhaul undertaken in Saudi Arabia by Prince Mohammed, there is tremendous cause for optimism for the next decade.