Earlier this week, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi together with Dr. Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) and Director of the Arab Regional Office of UNDP launched the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) first global Youth Strategy (2014-2017) “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future,”. The launch took place in Tunisia, the country where three years ago youth stood up to demand a new contract between state and society – a movement that inspired the entire region and kicked off the Arab spring.
Youth empowerment is “especially timely at this moment when over three billion people on Earth are under the age of 25,” said ASG Bahous of UNDP.
The youth strategy focuses on three main themes, the first of which is to strengthen sustainable development through increased economic empowerment of youth. The second is increased youth civic engagement and participation in politics, whereas the third is to reinforce youth engagement in disaster preparedness, crisis response, and resilience building in crisis and/or conflict contexts.
“I may be sounding too optimistic, but my message to the youth of Tunisia and the rest of the world is to learn the renewal of hope,” began Alhendawi his remarks to mark the launch of the global youth strategy. “But,” he added, “to be able to move beyond the stage of frustration, there can be no substitute for strong youth participation.”
The Envoy pointed out that he was surprised that the participation of young people in political parties post-revolution does not exceed 2.7 percent, or that participation in civil society does not exceed 6.1 percent. “The time has come for young people to move from the legacy of protests to political action,” he said, and called for a strengthening of the capacity of young people to respond to crises and shocks. He also stressed that the participation needs to happen not only for youth as voters, but also as candidates, both as a driving force for political action and as an opportunity for young people who found themselves sidelined after the revolution to overcome their frustration.
“Education and the desire and dignity of getting a decent job constitute the universal rights of young people all over the world,” said the Envoy, and pointed out that the financial resources available with donors required a clear vision on the part of the government and parties relevant to professional development and investment in this area. Alhendawi also stressed that it is time to get out of the cities and go to isolated rural areas and invest in education for girls.