Table of Contents

  • Young men and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region face the highest youth unemployment levels in the world and express lower levels of trust in government than their parents. With the share of youth (aged 15-29) exceeding 30% of the working-age population in most countries, MENA countries need to urgently develop and implement strategies focused on fully engaging youth in the economy, society and public life. So far, young people have only limited opportunities to influence policy making, and many lack adequate access to decent employment, quality education and affordable healthcare. The report is the first of its kind to apply a “youth lens” to public governance arrangements. It argues that governments can use open government tools to foster inclusive policy-making with a view to raising their voice in shaping policies and involving them in governance processes such as the allocation of public budgets. By “bringing youth in” to the policy-making process governments help ensure that their needs and concerns are taken into account across the whole of government. With youth on board, governments are more likely to deliver public services that are tailored to their specific needs and more accessible for vulnerable sub-groups such as young women and youth from rural backgrounds.

  • Five years after what has become known as the Arab Spring, young men and women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region still face considerable obstacles in becoming a driving force for social and economic development in their countries. MENA youth are facing higher unemployment levels than young people in any other region in the world. While around 15% of young people aged 15-29 in OECD countries as a whole are not in education, employment or training, inactivity levels for the age cohort 15-24 are as high as 25% for young men in the Palestinian Authority and around 41% for young women in Egypt. As the share of 15-29-year-olds exceeds 30% of the working-age population in most MENA countries, there is an urgent need to create decent opportunities for youth in both public and private sector to play a productive role in all areas of life, in particular by creating the space for youth to raise their voice and shape policies that reflect their realities and aspirations.

  • Despite the prominent role they played in the civil uprisings in the early 2010s, MENA youth are trapped in an observer status. Five years after young men and women took to the streets to call for more democratic governance and economic opportunities, they are facing limited opportunities to influence policy making. Moreover, access to decent employment, quality education and affordable healthcare is restricted for many. With the serious deterioration of the security situation in some countries, a whole generation of young men and women is facing the risk of social and economic exclusion. In line with the OECD New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) initiative, the OECD report, “Policy Shaping and Policy Making: The Governance of Inclusive Growth” as well as the OECD Guiding Principles for Open and Inclusive Policy Making, this chapter introduces the argument that MENA governments need to readjust their public governance arrangements towards the demands of young people to make inclusive growth happen and deliver tailored public services.

  • This chapter takes a snapshot of the conditions for MENA youth to shape their future. It finds that the region’s largest youth cohort of all times is unsatisfied with the delivery of public services and policies that do not adequately address their needs. Today, exclusive public governance arrangements present a major impediment, which, in the case they remain unaddressed, risk slowing down young people’s transition to adulthood and active citizenship. With unemployment levels exceeding 30% in most countries and an even greater share of discouraged young men and women not in employment, education or training (NEET), MENA countries are deprived of a key source for their future social and economic development. Low levels of traditional forms of participation suggest that MENA youth are disappointed with the existing mechanisms to drive change.

  • As a cross-cutting policy area, youth policy in the MENA region suffers from the lack of a strategic and co-ordinated approach. In the absence of an integrated framework to define the “why”, “how” and “what for” of youth policy, government interventions tend to be symbolic. As policy outcomes in favour of youth suffer from weak co-ordination and impact-orientation, MENA youth express significantly less trust in government than the age group of 50+. Against the two-fold challenge – young people’s exclusion from the policy cycle and the lack of mainstreamed youth concerns in public policies and strategies – this chapter argues that governments should apply a “youth lens” to open government tools and traditional forms of policy making and integrate youth in governance processes that are typically left at the discretion of policy makers.

  • Open government tools remain a fairly untapped opportunity to improve the context for youth to raise their voice and engage in public life. This chapter outlines pathways through which applying a youth perspective to open government tools can capitalise on young men and women’s demand for having real impact in decision making.The chapter analyses how access to information, the creation of formal institutions for participation and new technologies can break down the barriers for young people to engage with their governments.

  • This chapter draws attention to the critical role public governance plays for setting the conditions for young men and women to raise their voice and engage in policy making. Noting that the considerations of young men and women in MENA are insufficiently reflected in public policies and strategies, and the delivery of public services, the chapter introduces pathways through which governments can work towards mainstreaming youth considerations. It argues that the integration of youth in public governance – the system of strategic processes and tools, as well as institutions, rules and interactions for effective policy making – is key to readjust them towards youth needs and increase the impact of youth programming. This concept is discussed with a view to the following fields: public sector integrity, public budgeting, public human resource management, regulatory policy, local governance and gender equality.