Magharebia (Washington DC)

23 November 2012

North Africa: Young People Express Desire for Maghreb Co-Operation

Rabat — Young people want Maghreb states working together to address security threats and foster economic growth.

Breaking away from the traditions of self-interest and indifference towards politics, more and more young people across the Maghreb are expressing a growing interest in regional events, and want Maghreb states to collaborate on matters of security.

"Young people are no longer interested solely in their own future, they're also worried about how possible repercussions of regional and global events can affect their country", sociologist Haitam Neharaoui said.

"This explains their growing interest in regional security, whereas in the past, few people were concerned about this issue," he said.

The younger generation is taking an interest in regional and global events in great part due to the changes that have taken place in the Arab world over the past two years, he said.

"The security situation is worrying and what is happening in Mali could have consequences for all countries in the region. The focus needs to be on effective co-operation so that security challenges can be tackled jointly," politics student Houda Sellani said to Magharebia.

It is not just young people who are worried about Maghreb-wide security and the need to combat terrorism across the region at the moment, but politicians, especially MPs, have also questioned the government on this issue on several occasions, political analyst Najib Sefrioui said.

Sefrioui added that many, not just youth, agree on the need for regional co-operation in order to address security risks, which are growing rapidly and jeopardising stability in the region.

As the international community continues its plans for military intervention in Mali the feeling amongst youth isn't focused solely on a unified security policy. Many have expressed their desire for a unified economic policy for Maghreb states to help foster region-wide security.

"In addition to creating a security partnership, the countries of the Maghreb must also devise a common strategy on how to address young people in the region. It is important to turn young people away from extremism by protecting them from unemployment through job opportunities, education, and also raising awareness," 25 year-old Aymen Boulati said.

The Mauritanian youth employment project, launched in March to help train and employ thousands of young people, is an example of how states have recognised the need to implement economic reforms as a means of building security. Still, many like Boulati, want to see similar policies across the region.

"Youth in the Maghreb want to see a partnership formed between all countries of the region, not only to tackle the growing security threats but also to bring about economic integration. This could put the region on a par with developed countries," 29-year-old teacher Bouteina Chemmach said.

Chemmach highlighted the need for young people to get involved in democratic politics and express their grievances and recommendations. But she also emphasised the need for the government to seriously consider what youths have to say.

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