Friday, September 12, 2008

Youth - towards a new agenda in the Middle East and North Africa

Youth are becoming an increasing priority for countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Youth are an asset that if properly nurtured can stimulate the economic and social development of the region. Countries are searching for effective policies to capitalize on this youth asset and an increasing number of governmental and nongovernmental institutions in the region are involved in youth related-work.

At the regional level an increasing number of initiatives are being organized with a focus on youth inclusion and participation. Governments and NGOs across the MENA region are increasingly moving towards policies and initiatives that are more inclusive of youth by encouraging the expression of youth voice in the process of policy formulations and/or project implementation. Several national initiatives are being launched which reflect the move toward youth-inclusive policies and programs that promote youth led development work in the region.

One such venture would be Peace Camps held in Egypt over the past summer.

The Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement (SMWIPM) launched its pilot “Summer Peace Camps” July 26th to July 31st, 2008. The summer peace camps (SPC) are interactive week long set of programs convened to empower youth in seeing the school as a space for active knowledge seeking and creating participatory learning environments.

Aimed at 13 to 15 year olds, the Summer Peace Camps’ ultimate goal is to empower youth in promoting messages of peace throughout their communities. Members of the Peace Movement’s youth network of young people aged 15 to 28 years of age are also receiving training to become certified trainers for the SPCs.

This pilot project adopts a ‘peer to peer’, youth-led development model for the camps. Peer education is an educational model that relies on different groups of young people teaching and learning from one another. Adopting the peer education model is part of the movement’s efforts to bridge the divide between different sectors of young people and to allow for open platforms of communication. All segments of the program will focus on creating cultures of peace through highlighting the values of tolerance, acceptance, communication and respect. The culture of peace is the main focus of these camps and takes different forms in the program through art, environmental, and sports activities. The program activities are tailored to promote attitudes of responsibility towards one’s community through caring for the environment and understanding the importance of team work and cooperation through sports. The program also concentrates on the internet as a tool of knowledge, maintaining the importance of internet safety. And it focuses on unleashing one’s creativity and imagination through artistic activities.

The camps will be extending beyond the traditional urban centers to include and link different communities from all over Egypt. Ultimately these camps are aimed at providing the youth of Egypt with a forum for critical thinking and creative responsibility, the first step in creating a culture of service and youth-led development amongst their young.

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