North Africa's youth shut out from 'hijacked' revolutions

Monday 10 June 2013

Young people in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia feel shut out from politics in the wake of the revolutions they helped to create, according to a report published today by the British Council and the Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo.

The Revolutionary Promise report, based on research among groups of politically and socially active 18-35 year-olds and carried out by a team of young researchers, shows a gap between young people’s expectations and the current reality. The young people believe themselves to be the catalysts of the uprisings, are committed to bringing about change and still have a great sense of hope for the future – but they feel that they are being denied a role in the political and social reforms that are taking place in their countries.

The attitudes of the young people vary across the region. In Egypt, the revolutionary youth say that their demands have still not been met and that justice has not been served, particularly in regard to the protestors killed in Tahrir Square. Participants observed that the solidarity witnessed in the square has now splintered into polarised groups. Those associated with Islamist groups feel more optimistic.

In Libya, the young people feel that they enjoy greater trust in society, but this has still not translated into political positions for them. They feel that too much weight is put on political experience – especially as this equates to having worked with Gaddafi – and believe that education and qualifications are a better measure.

In Tunisia, young people feel persistently marginalised in the political process, and view the older generation as reaping the benefits of the youth’s revolution that they have hijacked and steered off course. Nevertheless, a sense of ownership is driving the young people to demand more significant political participation.

In all three countries, there is widespread criticism of the media – which is seen as biased, lacking integrity, and a source of many problems in society.

Jim Buttery, the British Council’s Director of Programmes in the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Young people across the region are at a turning point. They remain energised and committed, but they’re getting increasingly frustrated. Policymakers and development organisations need to find practical ways of harnessing the best of what young people have to offer. If we fail to do this, everybody loses out.”

The report calls for a number of actions including more involvement of young people in policy-making, the establishment of a Media Charter of Ethics, and new programmes to tackle gender and generational inequality.

The British Council commissioned the report in partnership with the American University in Cairo, as part of its work to build relationships for the UK around the world through English, education and the arts. The aim of the report is to gain insight into the changing views of young people in the region, in order to better inform the organisation’s programmes there.

Notes to Editor

For more information or to interview Jim Buttery, contact Mark Moulding in the British Council Press Office on +44 (0)207 389 4889 or mark.moulding@britishcouncil.org

A summary of the report is available to download here.

A copy of the full report is available on request.

Research was carried out between May and December 2012. Participants were between the ages of 18 and 35 and drawn from civil society organisations, political parties and informal groups. In each country over the study period, a panel study was conducted as well as a series of five to eight in-depth focus group discussions and a parallel series of ten short semi-structured interviews, reaching a total of approximately 100 young people per country.

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