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How we're helping transform the Middle East

Egypt, Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza, Yemen, February 27, 2011

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The recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt — and their ripple effects across North Africa and the Middle East — have reminded the world how powerful young people can be. In Egypt's astonishing 18-day revolution, young people were at the front lines of peaceful change, toppling an autocrat and moving their country toward democratic governance.

Unfortunately, the outlook for young people in that region is not rosy. The unemployment rate for Arab youths is nearly double that of the world at large. And many young people aren't just jobless, but voiceless. They're politically marginalized, disenfranchised by corruption and not included in local or national decision-making. Too many feel isolated and powerless to effect change.

The challenge before us is to positively channel young people's energy and ideas -- even their frustrations. At Mercy Corps, we believe if the world does not rise to that challenge, we run the risk of losing an entire generation to the influences of radicalism, coercive political movements, crime and corruption. Even in hope-filled Egypt, the real work of young people and the nation starts as the Mubarak era ends.

We see every day that young people can lead their communities toward greater security, productivity and justice. There are so many "bright lights" — smart, talented young people who are using new technology and social media platforms to make their voices heard.

Much of Mercy Corps' work in the Middle East, and around the world, is focused on identifying and supporting the efforts of these "bright lights." From Yemen to Gaza to Lebanon, we're striving to tap into the incredible energy of the region's young talent.

All young people — from here in the U.S. to the world's toughest places — want the same things: an education, a good life and the opportunity to speak their minds and be heard. They need hope for their futures. It's our responsibility to help them tap into their talents and realize the future they deserve.

Thank you for joining us in this effort.