Celebrating 15 years of giving Arab youth a voice

ASDA’A BCW's Sunil John talks to Campaign Middle East on the launch of its latest survey

Image Credit: ASDA’A BCW

ASDA’A BCW is celebrating 15 years of its influential Arab Youth Survey, which has seen a period of dramatic change.

Campaign Middle East spoke to Sunil John President, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) of ASDA’A BCW.

This year’s survey sample belongs to Generation Z. Today’s generation of Arab youth are living a new reality, where geopolitical loyalty is realigning, attitudes to the region’s conflicts are diverging, and perspectives on what constitutes a model nation are becoming more nuanced.

For our 15th annual survey, we have decided to release the findings in separate themes: global citizenship, politics, livelihood, identity, aspirations, the hopes of young Arabs for the future; and lifestyle, featuring their habits, pastimes, and the media they consume.

Findings on climate change, mental health and gender rights will also be disclosed. The overall theme of the 15th edition of the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey is Living a New Reality.

Arab youth at risk

Amidst a rising shift of public dissatisfaction, populist movements were moving in Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries, although they were largely ignored, or unseen, by most policymakers and the international media. The risk of the Middle East losing its youth dividend was visible.

ASDA’A BCW saw the need for a survey to understand the hearts and minds of Arab youth, Middle East’s largest demographic.

Around 60 per cent of the Arab world’s population, some 200 million young men and women, are below the age of 30. We launched the annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey to give them a voice.

Our reasoning was that insights lead to policies and ideal environments in which youth can thrive.

Arab Spring

The Arab Spring changed the world forever. Tarek el-Tayeb Mohammed Bouazizi’s persecution sparked the overthrow of the Tunisian government and the onset of regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Having identified the factors behind the upheaval in the Middle East for a generation, the survey became a guide for Arab youth’s opinion.

Image Credit: ASDA’A BCW

Evolving priorities

Each year, the study spotlights the outlook of Arab youth, their shifting mindset, and evolving priorities.

In 2012, fair pay and home ownership were deemed more important than living in a democracy.

In 2014, we found that confidence in government had risen. Two years later, less than half of Arab youth said they trusted their national government to manage surging terrorism.

In 2017, we observed optimism and a growing division in the views of youth in the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council states and those in the conflict-stricken countries of North Africa and the Levant.

In 2018, men and women across the region were demanding urgent action on jobs, education, corruption, Islamic extremism and safer communities. The call for reform grew even louder in 2019.

In 2020, the year of the pandemic, confidence was arguably at its lowest, with nearly half of Arab youth surveyed saying they had considered emigrating from their country.

We will continue to provide Arab youth a voice through our survey. As the region charts a course toward a more peaceful and sustainable future for the region and the world, it is necessary for all of us all to listen to them.

By Sunil John President, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) of ASDA’A BCW