Decent work for youth in the Middle East and North Africa

Within the framework of the SOLIDAR project on “Decent Work, Social Protection and Freedom of Association in the Middle East and North Africa: Mobilising for Social Justice by strengthening and promoting CSOs, social movements and the (independent) trade unions’ role in reforms and democratic changes”, SOLIDAR regional partner, ANND, together with MPDL (SOLIDAR member), ESPACE ASSOCIATIF (ANND member), BADESS and REMAJEC (SOLIDAR project partners) are organising a regional meeting that is taking place in Rabat, Morocco on November 24 and 25, 2017.

Youth and Decent Work’’ is the main focus of this regional meeting. It is bringing together civil society representatives and the partners of the project to discuss key issues pertaining to youth in the region and the impact of EU policies on youth empowerment. The conference considers youth as key mediators of change in the region and will discuss policy recommendations to tackle the challenges faced by youth and towards achieving sustainable development. There will also be an advocacy session to share experiences and best practices on advocacy and to plan advocating on youth and decent work at the EU level.

SOLIDAR is convinced that youth can be a driver for change in the region. Empowering youth starts initially with recognising their needs and protecting and fulfilling their rights and freedoms. In return, responding to their needs requires suitable capacity-building opportunities and the implementation of policies providing future possibilities. Listening effectively to the voices of youth and engaging them directly in shaping their own future is vital. Furthermore, empowering youth necessitates moving beyond isolated youth programmes and projects towards a comprehensive look at the issue of sustainable development and adopting reforms to address the structural challenges faced at diverse levels, be it economic, social or political.

Despite the role of youth, particularly their eagerness to engage and mobilise during the protests in the Arab region, the social and economic policies implemented have not necessarily empowered but rather disempowered youth for years. Their voices, and therefore their needs, remained ‘ignored’ and sometimes silenced with restricted civic participation. This issue must be resolved for good.

With the adoption of the revised European Neighbourhood Policy, the European Union put a clear emphasis on the need to engage with young people and on the important role of the “prospects for youth”, which are key to stabilising societies in the neighbourhood. On employment and employability in particular, the new policy has a strong focus on youth, noting that the EU can help improve the employability of the local workforce, and help to focus efforts on the development of skills and competences and create opportunities, particularly for young men and women. Hence, bilateral relations between the EU and the Southern Neighbourhood countries should effectively reflect this “youth” dimension.

This regional meeting is organised back to back with a SOLiD meeting on trade and investment in the Southern Arab region, which will look among other things, at how trade issues can be integrated into social dialogue.