Barcelona, 8 October 2015. The Foreign Ministers of the “5+5 Dialogue”, which includes 5 countries from the Northern shore of the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Portugal) and 5 from the Southern shore (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia) were meeting against the background of the serious humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean region caused by the explosion of migration flows, an increase in radicalisation and security threats both in the North and the South. The meeting focused on a key issue in the region: “Youth, the gauge of a stable and prosperous Mediterranean”.
The final declaration of this Ministerial Conference welcomed the “key role of the UfM as a unique forum of cooperation gathering all Mediterranean countries in a platform for dialogue and partnership”. The Ministers underlined “the importance that the Secretariat of the UfM continues to promote concrete and structuring projects that have positive impacts on the populations, on growth and on the socio-economic development of the member countries”.
They also agreed on the need to “reinforce the role of the UfM within the future configuration of the European Neighbourhood Policy” and pleaded for the “reinforcement of synergies and complementary that exists between the UfM and the different processes of regional cooperation, in particular, the Western Mediterranean Dialogue “5+5”, the PA-UfM, the ARLEM and the Anna Lindh Foundation”.
The discussions centred on themes at the core of the activities of the UfM: security, economic growth and Mediterranean youth, and more specifically on economic growth and the role of young people in the search for solutions to the challenges faced by this region. On this issue, the Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Fathallah Sijilmassi, said that there is “an urgent need to reinforce the socio-economic stability in the region that is engaging all of us collectively in projects and initiatives built around regional economic integration”.
In parallel to the Foreign Ministers’ meeting, a Forum of Civil Society also took place, organised by the Anna Lindh Foundation, with the participation of the representatives of the national civil society networks from the ten countries. Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and Mr. Fathallah Sijilmassi, Secretary General of the UfM, took part in the opening session.
The UfM has focused its activities on specific projects that have a direct impact on the population and that fall under three different areas: youth employment and inclusive growth, empowerment of women and sustainable development. The Secretary General underlined youth as the real lever for development in the region: “young people are often presented, wrongly, as being part of the problem, when actually they are the solution and the response to the region’s challenges, especially its socio-economic ones”. Youth is a priority across the board for UfM actions: in total, more than 100,000 young people are benefitting from the 16 UfM-labelled projects.
In their final declaration, Ministers recalled that “training, professional integration of young people and job creation are a priority for the projects developed within the framework of the ENP and the UfM”. They praised the start of the activities of the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes, a UfM flagship project.
The southern countries of the Mediterranean have almost 60 million young people aged between 15 and 29: 60% of the population in the South are under the age of 30. In 2030, there will be more than 80 million young people in the region and at the moment almost 30% of young people are unemployed and 2.8 million more young people of working age enter the labour market each year. “Young people are the first victims of the various challenges this region faces today but they are an extraordinary asset in terms of creativity, energy and innovation potential”, stressed Sijilmassi.
UfM projects that benefit young people
In the area of education and the mobility of students and researchers, one of the most iconic projects is the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes (UEMF in its French acronym) that will open its doors to more than 6,000 students from the region, offering a broad spectrum of courses with cross-disciplinary tuition on the languages and cultures of the Mediterranean. Likewise, the HOMERe project (High Opportunity for Mediterranean Executive Recruitment) promotes mobility for internships between several Mediterranean countries, with the aim of solving issues such as skill shortages, which is one of the main obstacles to recruiting young graduates in the region.
In terms of employability, the Med4Jobs initiative shares best practices on strengthening competencies and guiding people into jobs and facilitates actions to replicate these experiences on a regional scale. One of the Med4Jobs projects, the “New Chance Mediterranean Network (MedNC)” aims specifically to improve the employability of vulnerable young people who have left school without any qualifications and unemployed qualified school-leavers. Maharat MED seeks to support projects relating to employability in the private sector in Jordan, Palestine, Egypt and Morocco, through employment, entrepreneurship, education and by involving the project beneficiaries in public life and in services for the community.
When it comes to starting up companies, the UfM is undertaking projects with several regional and international promoters, such as the “Generation Entrepreneur ”, run by INJAZ Al-Arab, which aims to close the employment supply and demand gap by providing entrepreneurship and professional skills training to hundreds of young people in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco; likewise, the project implemented in partnership with CEED in Morocco and Tunisia is supporting the growth of more than 300 companies run by women.
Finally, in the area of women’s empowerment, 10 projects have been set up to develop training, leadership, entrepreneurship or education for 50,000 beneficiaries. The “Young Women as Job Creators” project (AFAEMME) sets out to promote self-starting and a spirit of enterprise among more than 2,000 young female university students in Morocco, Spain and Tunisia. The UfM has also launched other projects, particularly in the areas of citizenship (IDEABORN), leadership (Science Po), and vocational training (AMIDEAST).