An opinion poll conducted by the Qatar-based Aljazeera Centre for Studies and published on 30 July 2013 revealed that a majority of young people in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen feel disenfranchised by the political process in their countries.
Results showed that 81 per cent of respondents in Tunisia, 72 per cent in Egypt and 62 per cent in Libya felt that their recently elected parliaments didn’t represent them. As a young Moroccan, I feel the same. Arab youth everywhere seem to share this lack of trust in their parliaments. Today, we need to rekindle trust between youth and their politicians to better develop our countries.
Over the past ten years, a large youth movement in North Africa and the Middle East took off and we believed we could affect positive change in our countries. This movement reached its peak during what is known as the Arab Spring. In the Moroccan context, the popular movement caused the monarchy to meet a large part of the street’s demands by giving the Prime Minister and the parliament more executive powers, creating space for civil society to debate the new constitution and holding a national referendum on it.
Youth are the foundation for a strong society
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But soon after the reforms, youth felt that they were once again left out of the political sphere. This resulted in a loss of confidence in the political process and in politicians. Youth felt bitter and desperate. This ultimately led to the current crisis in relations between youth and their politicians.
But youth have shown they are politically mature and ready to be partners in politics. One example of this is a group of youth who created the Youth Movement for Reform in Morocco, in which I took part in 2011. The group held the belief that differences in opinions are the heart of societal progress. To this end, they generated discussions between youth who wanted reform, and those who didn’t. Both groups shared a desire for prosperity for their country, and peace and respect for fellow citizens.
Youth have also shown they possess the knowhow to work in a local context and affect change in their communities, which is added value for politicians who are also seeking to improve the state of the nation.
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Indeed, from 1999 to 2011 I worked with a group of students to create an association named Tifletois: New Life in the small marginalised town of Tiflet in northwest Morocco. We organised computer literacy classes for younger kids, created sports teams between local youth and organised international cultural exchanges. These activities in turn contributed to creating a culture of participation and engagement in their community.
We can be a partner to politicians to solve real problems.
To move beyond the current mistrust we need a mechanism that brings politicians and youth together to build a society that allows for full participation of everyone in the decision-making process.
Youth are the foundation for a strong society, as well as the nation’s future. They can be a catalyst for development and their participation could create a better society, looking positively toward the future. What is needed now is rekindled trust to move in that direction.
Our ambitious generation of youth and today’s conventional politicians together can decide which path the nation should take.
Naoufal El Hammoumi is a young Moroccan leader and activist in the civil society. This article was written for the CG News Network.