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50 Young Change Agents in The Hague

Although one of the youngest continents in the world, unemployment rates in the Middle East and Africa are one of the highest  in the world, ranging between 25% to 50% of young people being unemployed. A lack of opportunity and perspective are root causes for poverty which results in various sorts of reactions, be it irregular migration or terrorism.

50 MFA delegates

The Middle East and Africa are moving at a pace much slower than its potential due in great part to the untapped potential of its youth. It has become evident that a youth lens offers a strategic basis to achieve sustainable development and inclusive economic growth, which is driven by its own citizens. Proper investments therefore would play an important role in facilitating inclusive growth and poverty reduction.

Therefore, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has decided to invite 50 delegates from the Middle East, North Africa, Sahel and Horn of Africa to participate in the One Young World (OYW) Summit 2018 that took place in the Hague. The Dutch MFA scholarship ‘Enterprise for Peace’ was centered around creating youth employment opportunities for prosperous and peaceful societies.  The key objectives of the scholarship:

  • Empowering young leaders to create sustainable job opportunities in selected regions;
  • Leveraging the potential of young people as widely as possible for job creation and highlight their potential as a solution to fostering prosperous and peaceful societies;
  • Raising awareness of youth unemployment opportunities for young people and sharing best practice.

To make sure we do not only create policies for the youth, but also with youth, the Dutch MFA organized a workshop during the OYW summit asking the 50 MFA delegates for input on its foreign policy note focusing on young (female) entrepreneurship. The delegates worked together to find common grounds of area that the Dutch MFA should focus on. Access to finance, capacity development support, education and an enabling environment where top priorities for them.

‘Entrepreneurship is a proven and powerful tool for creating economic opportunities, generating wealth and empowering citizens. Despite their importance to the economy, entrepreneurs often find it difficult to access the financing they require. Creating an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs and startups is vital’.

'The most pressing issue female entrepreneurs face is a lack of capacity development support. Skilled and passionate mentors/ experts that are willing to teach and inspire young people is what we need in order to improve our business model. Role models are needed’.

‘A strong embrace of innovation is key to addressing youth unemployment. Linked to innovation is the educational environment which often is outdated and does not prepare us for the labor market. Skilling people for the future is critical. Most graduates, however, seeking jobs in the region continue to turn to the public sector. Government can play a role, by changing regulations, making a more favorable business climate and working with industry to boost job quality’.

To tackle the root causes of poverty, it is vital that young people are offered more perspective in their countries but that they are also included in decision-making processes. The Dutch MFA is investing in providing work and income for young people and women via a.o. easier access to finance to start their own enterprise and by investing in skills that one needs in order to become an entrepreneur.

The young change agents that attended the OYW summit are already role models in their countries and are equipped to bring along change. It is important that young people like these delegates are included in decision-making processes so that policies can work for them. John Jal Dak Ruot and Salam Al-Nukta are two of those change agents. These are their stories:

John Jal Dak Ruot, South Sudan. Launched the Youth Social Advocacy Team, a youth-led initiative aimed at resolving tribal clashes between youth of various ethnicities fueled by the ongoing conflict in his country. So far, the Youth Social Advocacy Team supported 5 youth groups (150 people) with start-up funds to run their enterprises and trained over 250 refugee leaders, women, youth and religious leaders as mediators and counsellors on trauma healing, leadership and conflict resolution skills.

Salam Al-Nukta, Syria. Despite the violent conflict in her home country, Salam started ChangeMakers, a youth-led programme connecting young Syrians with volunteer mentors.

Its aim is to raise more young people and in particular girls to learn how to code, but also how to think out of the box, dig deeper in world pressing problems and create innovative startups.

If young people can be integrated as productive members of society, this will create big opportunities within the region. However, if youth remain to be silenced and without opportunities for making social and economic progress, the root causes of poverty, irregular migration and terrorism will not be addressed. We all have the duty to not exclude youth but make youth an asset all over the world and not just in the regions above. 

Do you want to know more about the initiatives these 50 MFA delegates have started? Read more on Oneyoungworld.com.

Laila Bouallouch (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)