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Giving the world's young the future they deserve

February 25, 2011

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Neal Keny-Guyer

The Oregonian
February, 2011

Young people represent promise. As a parent, I often look at my children and wonder: What will they make of their lives? How can I help them achieve their potential? As the chief executive of Mercy Corps, I look at young people in the world's poorest, most desperate places and ask the same questions.

In recent weeks, young people in the Middle East have answered the first of these questions loud and clear. 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. According to the U.N. Development Programme's 2009 "Arab Human Development Report," 60 percent of the Arab world's population is younger than 25 years old but employment opportunities are not keeping pace. The unemployment rate for Arab youths is nearly double that of the world at large; the figure for Arab women is even worse.