Key figures and context
The Euro-Mediterranean region has one of the youngest populations in the world, with one in every three people being younger than 25 years old, and with this number reaching almost half of the population for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries. Moreover, youth are among the most vulnerable groups, mainly the issues of unemployment and gender equality. In 2021 15% of young women and men (between 15- 34) within the EU were neither part of the labour force nor receiving education or training. In North Africa and Middle East, 25% of young women and men were unemployed. The main reasons for these high rates of unemployment are the scarce decent work opportunities, underemployment, poor quality education with high dropout rates, skills mismatches in the labour market, and finally, the lack of institutional capacities and mechanisms that respond to the youth’s needs and concerns. These key challenges have significantly exacerbated the phenomenon of brain drain in the region.
15% of young women and men (between 15- 34) within the EU were neither part of the labour force nor receiving education or training
Unemployment is not the only challenge for young people. It is intertwined with other equally urgent and pressing obstacles that are related to access to higher education of good quality, mobility, environment, inclusive growth, economic development, and prevention of radicalization, hence, the need for a regional strategy and a coordinated action plan. This should be further supported with the mainstreaming of youth in national policies. Youth in the Euro-Mediterranean region is also closely concerned by other relevant topics, that fall under the UfM mandates, such as climate action, energy, rural and urban development, digitalization and so on. Climate change and sustainable development represent major challenges for the new generations, as the future of the region is at stake.
Objectives of UfM Regional Dialogue on Youth
The UfM considers that Youth should not only be subjects to policies and strategies, but rather be active actors in their implementation through a concrete involvement in their processes and frameworks. Youth should be given space and prominence in policy-making across Euro-Mediterranean countries. Therefore, the UfM Youth Strategy worked closely with Youth-led organizations and networks, in addition to its Member States, that contribute to the development of skills and leadership, as well as civil society from the whole region, and will continue to do so during its whole implementation phases. The Regional Dialogue on Youth serves as a stepping stone towards proposing more aligned and impactful initiatives and actions in the Mediterranean, which will adequately address environmental, social and economic challenges faced by the Euro-Mediterranean Youth.
The youth strategy
The UfM has placed young people at the heart of its action, focusing on empowering and engaging them as agents for positive change. The UfM Youth Strategy 2030 is a milestone that comes as a targeted response to the call of the 42 UfM Ministers of Foreign Affairs, at the 2nd UfM Regional Forum held in 2017, to launch a “Positive Agenda for Youth in the Mediterranean”. Adopted on December 9th, 2021, in the UfM Senior Officials Meeting, the Strategy has gone through various stages on the creation of the National Focal Points Network, of which the first meeting took place on 11th November 2022, that aims to operationalize it and translate it into different concrete actions through a targeted Action Plan on Youth.
This Strategy is fully in line with UN Youth 2030 and the EU Youth Strategy. In this framework, the UfM will continue to support and mobilize youth in its main areas of action, cognizant of the fact that in addition to introducing fresh and alternative perspectives, they have direct knowledge and insights into the issues they continue to be at the forefront of. The success of this Strategy and its Action Plan that will follow in 2023, is based on the conviction that we must act with, and not only for, youth, in view of promoting an effective regional cooperation with tangible impact on the ground. The UfM is fully committed to be a reliable partner in the quest to facilitate increased impact and expanded regional and country-level action to empower the Euro-Mediterranean youth in building an inclusive and sustainable future in the Mediterranean. This Strategy has achieved the great objective of bringing together 42 Member States with different horizons to agree on a common Strategy that reflects the emergency to act in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Focusing on priorities that fall under the UfM Mandate, the Strategy provides a vision to support the power to act and mobilize of youth, through proposing “Solutions for youth, by youth”, that invest in skills, education, quality jobs etc. The six priority areas of the UfM Youth Strategy are the following:
- Youth, Climate Action, and Energy
- Youth and the Environment
- Youth and Urban and Rural Development
- Youth and Economic Development
- Youth and Education and Training
- Youth and Social Inclusion and Participation
The UfM Youth Strategy worked closely with Youth-led organizations and networks, in addition to its Member States, that contribute to the development of skills and leadership, as well as civil society from the whole region, and will continue to do so during its whole implementation phases.
Numerous communications took place between the Co-Presidencies, the Member States and the Secretariat on the creation of the National Focal Point Network on Youth. Member States have also nominated their own national experts and additional national and regional youth-led organizations that will be invited to participate in the Working Group meetings throughout 2023, to express their own views and recommendations for the elaboration of the Action Plan on Youth.
Moreover, the UfM participated and contributed to different international relevant events, such as: the 4th edition of the World Youth Forum which took place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt; the 33rd General Assembly of the European Youth Information and Counselling Agency (ERYICA), held in May 2022 in Barcelona to intensify European and international cooperation in the field of youth information work and services; the United Nation Alliance of Civilizations MENA Youth Forum, organized on 17-23 June 2022 in Rabat to focus on the role of Youth in preventing violent extremism through sport; and the Mediterranean Youth Academy (MYA), which took place in Alexandria, Egypt, that aims at training on different cluster topics more than 100 young participants from the Euro Mediterranean region. UfM representatives participated in the second edition of the MYA in Alexandria, Egypt, to explain the UfM work on Youth and Employment and Youth and Gender Equality.
As mentioned, the First Meeting of the National Focal Points Network (NFPN) took place on 11th November 2022 online, counting with the active participation of Focal Points from twelve (12) Member States – namely Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Palestine, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Türkiye. Moreover, representatives of the UfM Co-presidency from the Jordan Ministry and DG NEAR were present and delivered the opening remarks. Representatives of the EU Delegations and of the Directorate on Education, Youth, and Culture participated as well.
The First Meeting of the NFPN on Youth served as an opportunity to exchange views on the priority elements to focus on during the 2023 Working Group meetings for the operationalization of the Youth Strategy, that will lead to the Action Plan. A tentative calendar for the Working Group meetings and for the Ceremony of adoption and presentation of the Action Plan was presented.
The countries have been active and available to nominate national experts that will participate in the four (4) thematic Working Group meetings that will gather throughout 2023 in order to collect recommendations and suggestions for the elaboration of the Action Plan on Youth. The Working Group Meetings will count with the participation of Civil Society and Youth-Led Organizations that previously contributed to the Strategy and still show interest in cooperating on the draft of the Action Plan, to be adopted and presented by October 2023 in Barcelona, Spain.
Moreover, the Mediterranean Youth Foundation and the UfM met to discuss the possibility to organize the 3rd edition of the Mediterranean Youth Academy in Barcelona in the second semester of 2023.