Sustainability and Youth Are The Way Forward

الأربعاء 27 تشرين الأول 2010

Written by Yara al-Wazir at the World Economic Forum
British Council Global Changemaker, Kuwait

Sustainability is the process of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Focusing on emerging economies from developing countries in the MENA region, it is becoming increasingly difficult for governments to implement a strategy that would achieve environmentally sustainable economic growth. The region is a hotspot for development, especially for product and retail markets (3 of the top 10 emerging countries for retail are in the Middle East), thus, it is the perfect time to ensure the foundation laid out for sustainable growth.

The glaring threat of water scarcity in the region makes addressing this issue imperative; around 6% of the world’s population lives in the MENA region, yet only 1% of the world’s fresh water resources exist in the region. Kuwait for example, has no fresh water resources whatsoever. Therefore, sustainable development along with finding new technologies to keep up with the rising demand for water, are absolutely necessary to avoid the possibility of a ‘water war;’ while both technology and changing the way we live are necessary in maintaining the agricultural industry in the region.

A proposed project by the EU suggests using the solar energy received by the Saharan Desert in North Africa, to provide Europe’s electricity. Only 0.3% of the sunlight falling on the Sahara and Middle East deserts is required to meet all of Europe’s energy needs. The 35 billion pound proposed supergrid provides a massive economic opportunity for countries to participate in: the profits generated from this project would fuel the economies of the participating countries, allowing for the expansion of other sectors, such as education and health. This would ensure the safety and economic security of the future generations, simultaneously taking care of the current generation.

Environmental sustainability can be achieved by tapping into one of the richest resources in the region: the youth. The 4 pillars of sustainability are innovation, leadership, creativity, and values. There is no doubt that all these factors are available in the youth population of the MENA region. It should also be noted that over 45% of the youth working-population is currently unemployed – laying a foundation for sustainability would create a job market for these young people.

The world now understands the economy better than ever before; past economic trends have shown that in order for an economy to enjoy continuous growth, the manner in which growth is achieved must be sustainable, and thus, defining sustainability as a way of moving forward is crucial for the region to excel and emerge as a global competitor.

The Global Changemaker program is a project of the British Council. Global Changemakers are a select group of you – ages 16-25- from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated a significant track record of achievement in their local communities through social entrepreneurship, community activism, and volunteer work.

Read more of the Changemakers’ posts below.

Learning for the 21st century
Written by Lamya Abdulla AlButi at the World Economic Forum
British Council Global Changemaker, Kingdom of Bahrain

Herbert Spencer said: “the great aim of education is not knowledge, but actions.” Preparing youth for the challenge of real life becomes the fundamental objectives of learning process; however this is related to the development, life changes and new technology.

Students will face many challenges, so they must be well prepared to face the work and life requirements. For example employers prefer an employee who is multi-talented, the ability to learn, has communication skills, problem solving and taking responsibility through a critical thinking process.

There are many strategies that must be used to improve students’ educational level such as bringing the world to the classroom; which enables students to get real life examples and experiences. In addition to, involving students in training programs to communicate and work with people from different levels. Furthermore, helping students develop problem-solving skills to enhance critical thinking is necessary. Last but not least, varying assessment methods instead of relying so heavily on testaking and memorization; teacher could request students to make portfolios, write reflection pieces, involve in team projects in the class room, and apply what they learn.

The ministry of education in Bahrain started a new program which is called the General Secondary Vocational Educational Certificate; it helps students get knowledge, and training, but most importantly, employable skills. Bahrain is a first good step, but all MENA countries should start redesigning their school curriculums to prepare students for future challenges; challenges we’ve yet to face.


Its Not Only Economic Empowerment


Written by Yasmin Galal
British Council Global Changemaker

Despite the fact that the MENA region is witnessing the highest rates of Arab women joining universities in the history of the region, this does not reflect on the job market as women are still being paid less than men for the same jobs and still suffer from the glass ceiling effect in regards to the acquisition of management positions in both public and private sectors.

You might agree or disagree with all those feminists out there wanting to change laws and shake the still water aiming at better conditions for women, but it still remains a fact that they have helped move things forward; the status of Arab women has been really changing, more women are educated, more women are aware of their rights, and more women are taking part in real decision making. But it is also women that are still undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and honour killings; it is still women that are denied certain positions like being judges and heads of states.

What is wrong here?

Analyzing the way women conditions have been changing in MENA, it becomes evident that education alone is not enough if women do not have sufficient channels to use it; money generating projects are not enough if they are not sustainable; clarifying women’s opinions and needs is not enough if they do not affect decision making; raising children is not enough if women do not have a real sense of fulfilment and personal development.

Economic empowerment of women goes beyond more women having more money, it means independence of making choices, independence to decide the course of one’s own life, independence to think and take a real part in developing their communities, and discover their abilities and what they’re capable of. But yet again, economic empowerment is not enough if not accompanied by deep awareness of one’s own rights, how to advocate for them and most of all exercise them.


Written by Joe Fahed
British Council Global Changemaker

“The quality of education in the Arab world is falling behind other regions”, declared the World Bank. This is due to many factors, which I have personally noticed in my country Lebanon and also found out that they are quite similar to the issues in other fellow Arab countries.

First and foremost, the whole educational system is still an ancient one which we have inherited from the colonial masters but never bothered to change it or even modernize it. A few science books for example are old editions that surprisingly contain certain facts that are no longer considered accurate by modern science. In parallel, many teachers are under-qualified and often too old to have the energy to put much effort into their teaching. Schools are scared to set an old teacher for retirement, for they would require pensions that the schools cannot afford. Moreover, most public schools are often old buildings that lack the basic facilities needed for a modern education to take place.

Generally speaking, the education experience within the MENA region is neither engaging nor stimulating. Students are treated as robots and expected to cram and memorize the material in preparation for a test instead of being encouraged to develop critical thinking and learn through analysis or practice. Furthermore, when it comes to official exams, the situation is as corrupt as are the political administrations since cheating is effortless and those in power can actually mess around with the final grades. If gaining a certain score is all that counts in a typical MENA education, I wonder how much a student’s grade or rank is reflective of their actual potential?

The educational state in the MENA region is unacceptable as it jeopardizes our countries’ economic development and prosperity. John F. Kennedy once said, “Remember that our nation’s first great leaders were also our first great scholars.” In that light, MENA countries need to make education reform their top priority because as UNESCO believes, without improving education they won’t reach sustainable development. In those regards, the respective governments need to allocate large funding budgets in restructuring their educational sectors. Public schools should be renovated to offer students a healthy and peaceful learning environment and e-learning should also be progressively introduced for it’s perceived benefits.

Moreover, the current teachers must undergo an appropriate form of training to make them well qualified in order to not just be able to convey their specific course material but also be able to motivate the students and push them to perform to their best potential. In addition, schools must focus on integrating more extracurricular activities into their students’ schedules so that they can take a break from the monotonous academic routine, refresh their minds, practice their talents and find their passions in life.

Last but not least, governments must incorporate a mandatory course for all students, which covers civics and citizenship, fostering unity within the countries; the course should contain a module about pan-Arab relations and their importance so that the next generations realize the urgent need for the Arab Union to become a real success because Arab states cannot make it if they’re not well united.

 لتصلك أبرز المقالات والتقارير اشترك/ي بنشرة حبر البريدية

Our Newsletter القائمة البريدية