Today we present part five from the “Gulf Cooperation Council at 31: Implications of Trends and Indications for GCC and US Interests,” a symposium presented last week in Washington, DC, by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.
In this presentation we learned about the youth engagement initiatives and young leader outreach efforts at the U.S. State Department from Mr. Andrew Rabens, Special Advisor for Youth Engagement in the Bureau of Near East Affairs (Middle East and North Africa). He talked about the current environment — demographics and unemployment issues — and the Department’s tools to reach youth in the region to affect these challenges.
Additional reports from the symposium are at the links below with the remainder of the presentations appearing separately over the course of this week.
The Gulf Cooperation Council at 31: Implications of Trends and Indications for GCC and US Interests (Part 5 – Engaging Youth) – Andrew Rabens
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
May 24, 2012
Part 1 – Dr. John Duke Anthony – Introductions and Ms. Molly K. Williamson – Overview
Part 2 – Dr. Odeh Aburdene – Economics
Part 3 – Ms. Randa Fahmy Hudome – Energy
Part 4 – Mr. Joshua Yaphe – A Question of Union
[Mr. Andrew Rabens] Thank you, Dr. Anthony and let me begin by saying I am truly humbled to be on a panel with this distinguished group of practitioners and also in the room with this group of experts and fellow practitioners as well.
I am currently the Special Advisor for Youth Engagement at the State Department in the Bureau of Near East Affairs, Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. I have been in the State Department for about four years focusing on youth engagement for that time, first in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, then in the Bureau of Africa Affairs and now in the Bureau of Near East Affairs. And I was asked to come today and give some of the youth perspective, the youth demographics that we’re up against in the Gulf and the MENA region at large.
So I’d like to focus my time today on three areas. One being, I want to discuss the kind of environment that we’re operating in from the youth perspective. Two, I want to showcase some of the best practices, tools, programs, and infrastructure that the U.S. Government already has in place in the MENA region and in the Gulf. And then three, I want to take advantage of all of you being here and brainstorm — and this will bleed into the Q&A section — and start talking about how we can better tackle some of the youth related challenges that we face in the Gulf.
But let me begin very quickly by saying that at State Department and the U.S. Government as a whole, we’ve been trying to make the case more recently that youth engagement is not just a demographic box to check but a powerful means, a powerful vehicle of tackling your key foreign policy priorities. About a year and a half ago the State Department launched a youth engagement, a youth policy framework that produced a document that was released last summer. They also then created a new Global Youth Issues Office at the State Department that’s spearheaded by a young 24-year-old youth activist named Ronan Farrow, and the Secretary has backed up her interest with action this past February, February 25 in Tunis gave remarks where she said, “Young people are at the heart of today’s great strategic opportunities and challenges, whether it’s building or rebuilding the economy, combating violent extremism, or building sustainable democracies, youth are at the forefront of these issues.”
And while she was talking in a global context in Tunis, these issues apply even more acutely, I’d argue, in the MENA region and in GCC countries as they’re trying to deal with repercussions of the Arab Spring, underlying demographics, current economic conditions, culture, and fast-moving change. Yet there are incredible opportunities and challenges. So let’s dive right in.
Current engagement environment. Ms. Williamson referenced earlier, the massive youth demographic. Sixty percent of the world is below the age of 30. Sixty-five percent of MENA populations are below the age of 30. High levels of school enrollment have taken place and high levels of graduate rates have taken place in recent years in the MENA region. Positive development. I think the U.S. Government, including many of the folks in this room, can pat themselves on the back a little bit in terms of helping to spur that along. But the problem is that trends in the youth labor market haven’t kept up with the rising graduate rates and the rising education rates. Brookings estimates right now that about 20-30 percent of eligible youth workers in the MENA region are unemployed. In places like Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, we’re talking 40-50 percent of eligible youth workers are unemployed. In places like Bahrain, one of the GCC countries, a number we keep hearing, that a number of youth grads, very qualified, youth graduates of college remain unemployed.
Mr. Andrew Rabens is the Special Advisor for Youth Engagement at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Near East Affairs (Middle East and North Africa), Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. He focuses on regional youth engagement initiatives and outreach to young leaders in the Middle East and North Africa. Mr. Rabens previously worked on youth engagement efforts in the Bureau of African Affairs and in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Mr. Rabens has traveled extensively in the Middle East and Africa and has done short stints abroad at the U.S. Embassies in Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Gaborone, Botswana; Tbilisi, Georgia; and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Rabens attended the London School of Economics to obtain his Masters Degree in International Relations. While in London, Mr. Rabens worked as an organizer for the Barack Obama Campaign in the UK and in the UK Parliament for the Rt. Honorable Ed Miliband, who currently serves as the Labour Party Leader.
Mr. Rabens is a former staffer for Senator Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill and a former intern for both Senator Edward Kennedy and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He dis his undergraduate work in Government at Harvard University (where he also played on the Men’s Varsity Tennis Team) and is from Berkeley, California.
For more information: www.state.gov/p/nea
- Symposium Reviews the Gulf Cooperation Council as it Turns 31 (Part 4 – A Question of Union) [Mr. Joshua Yaphe]
- Symposium Reviews the Gulf Cooperation Council as it Turns 31 (Part 3 – Energy) [Ms. Randa Fahmy Hudome]
- Symposium Reviews the Gulf Cooperation Council as it Turns 31 (Part 2 – Economics) [Dr. Odeh Aburdene]
- Symposium Reviews the Gulf Cooperation Council as it Turns 31 (Part 1) [Dr. John Duke Anthony, Ms. Molly K. Williamson]
- GCC Secretariat – Home Page
- Photo Gallery – GCC at 31 Symposium – NCUSAR
- Gulf Union – SUSRIS Special Section
- Gulf Political Union – Gause Talks with “Iran Primer” – SUSRISblog – May 2, 2012
- Toward a Union Formula – Prince Saud al-Faisal – SUSRIS – Apr 30, 2012
- 32nd GCC Summit Final Statement and Riyadh Declaration – SUSRIS – Dec 21, 2011
- GCC Summit Issues Final Communique – WAM – Dec 21, 2011
- Gulf States Seek Stability Not Status Quo – Koch – SUSRIS – Dec 4, 2011