International Youth Day: investing in youth is investing in development and stability
- Representing nearly 60% of the total population, young people constitute one of the greatest assets for stability and development in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
- The new action-oriented Roadmap of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is centred on young people’s potential to promote stability and development.
- Over 15 regional cooperation projects are endorsed by the UfM to empower youth, targeting directly more than 100,000 young men and women in the region.
11 August.- Young men and women are a source of creativity, innovation and positive change if an enabling environment is provided to facilitate their full participation. They are the region’s most valuable asset and must be at the heart of the Mediterranean agenda. Young people play an important role in energising development, growth, poverty reduction and societal wellbeing, as well as in fostering regional cooperation and integration. Their active participation in intercultural exchanges and dialogue is key. Young people in both the North and the South are ambassadors of the shared values that we seek to advocate and promote; they are the promise of a better future.
Almost 60% of the regional population is currently under the age of 30, and the number of young people under the age of 15 is forecast to increase by over 18% by 2020. 2.8 million young people enter the job market each year in the region. However, with an average of about 30% youth unemployment and around 50% for young women, the region has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. The International Labour Organisation estimates that the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could increase by $25 billion by 2018 if the youth unemployment rate is cut by half.
In this context, the UfM embraces the celebration of International Youth Day under the theme “Youth Building Peace” to underline the urgent need to enhance the untapped capacities of young people for the socio-economic development and stability of both shores of the Mediterranean.
Youth is at the core of the UfM’s regional strategy. Under the active leadership of the UfM Co-Presidency held by the EU and Jordan, the UfM offers a unique platform for regional cooperation based on common strategies that represent the commitment of its 43 Member States to a regional agenda for peace, stability, inclusive growth and sustainable development. Concrete and tangible results have been achieved by the UfM and its partners in the region:
- Political Forum/Ministerial meetings: at the 2nd UfM Regional Forum, held in Barcelona last January under the theme “Mediterranean in Action: Youth for Stability and Development”, UfM Foreign Affairs Ministers agreed to launch a Positive Agenda for Youth in the Mediterranean through facilitating higher education, vocational education and training (VET), employability, health, youth empowerment and mobility, and mainstreaming gender equality, thus promoting social inclusiveness.
- Regional Policy Platforms: structured regional dialogues on topics such as employment, women’s empowerment, education, youth employability and mobility regularly involve an important network for cooperation in the Mediterranean including international organisations, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, international financial institutions, development agencies, private sector representatives, universities and think tanks. These platforms follow up on decisions taken at the Ministerial level, thereby ensuring implementation of concrete initiatives and projects on the ground such as the Mediterranean Initiative for Jobs (Med4Jobs).
- Regional Cooperation Projects: the main objectives of over 15 of the 47 UfM-labelled projects are empowering young people and enhancing their capabilities, skills and economic inclusion. The activities range from promoting entrepreneurship and access to finance to vocational training, employability, mobility and social engagement. Of the 200,000 beneficiaries directly targeted by UfM-labelled projects, more than 100,000 are young men and women.
In the words of UfM Secretary General, Fathallah Sijilmassi: “It is unfair to limit our region only to the negative dimensions. It would be an injustice to the millions of Mediterranean young people whose daily achievements are remarkable in so many fields. They are the very people, in the South and in the North, who represent the best assets and success stories of the region. They must be at the centre of a positive agenda for the Mediterranean.”
Some of the flagship projects specifically targeting young people are:
- Mediterranean Initiative for Jobs (Med4Jobs)
- Forming Responsible Citizens: promoting citizenship education to prevent school violence, particularly against girls and women
- New Chance Mediterranean Network – MedNC
- Higher Education on Food Security & Rural Development
- Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes
- Eastern Mediterranean International School