“Supporting youth in the Southern Mediterranean region is vital,” says Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO. “Today’s youth are transforming their societies. We must harness their energies, capacities and ideas as partners for a common future built on peace, social justice and human rights.”
Since its launch in February 2014, NET-MED Youth has trained over 4,000 young people in policy analysis, dialogue, strategic planning, advocacy, media, freedom of expression, communication, labor market policies and much more. The young members of the project make up today a strong regional network, with remarkable connections to its northern Mediterranean neighbors.
“NET-MED Youth is not just a project, it is a vision and a network that UNESCO has put in place for young people to become active players in change and development processes in their countries,” explains Souria Saad-Zoy, Project Manager and Youth Programme Specialist at UNESCO. “The young people and youth organizations we have been partnering with inspire us to continue to strengthen a solid platform for youth to be leaders and actors of innovation.”
Several key initiatives and achievements illustrate the uniqueness of NET-MED Youth, one of UNESCO’s flagship European Union-funded projects.
In Tunisia, a pilot digital platform Jeun’Experts (young experts) puts a 100 active young people in the spotlight, with expertise in the fields of economics, politics, social and cultural dynamics, and media. The platform promotes their participation in public debate and a plural, fair and objective treatment of youth issues in the media and in the public sphere. In Lebanon, an online database was created by young people to highlight young professionals and experts. NET-MED Youth has also positioned youth from different countries in the region as opinion leaders on key youth-related issues such as on cultural heritage protection, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda.
At the level of public policies, young project members and coordinators have invested a lot of effort in the development and revision of national youth strategies in different countries. The first national youth policy was launched in Palestine after a series of trainings and consultations with youth. Young members from Morocco revised their national youth strategy and are currently working on adapting it to a pilot locality. Young Tunisians are in the phase of implementing their own national strategy. Jordanian youth are building a new one. And youth in Israel and Lebanon have built a large body of research and knowledge that will allow them to move on to the next stages.
On the media front, NET-MED Youth members have led over 50 outreach actions that connected them to more than 100 national media outlets. These outreach and advocacy campaigns are one of the many results of trainings and regional and international learning opportunities for youth to ensure a better representation of their issues in mainstream media. Young members of NET-MED Youth are now trained in media monitoring, research and methodologies, advocacy, campaigning, media production and much more, to be the leaders and creators of inclusive and youth-friendly media content.
The issue of youth unemployment has always been present in all of NET-MED Youth’s work. Both young people and national experts and institutions in the project’s beneficiary countries have learned a lot from capacity-building sessions about employment policy design. The first sets of skills projections on youth future skills needs are now produced in several countries.
NET-MED Youth is more than the above-mentioned initiatives. It is a mass of young people, whose every-day lives are boosted by civic engagement, learning and making an impact. These young people, members of the project and other actors of civil society, are today’s superheroes. NET-MED Youth has succeeded in rallying young people beyond its initial working groups to develop their communities, to speak out, to be part of change, and to build tomorrow today.
The project will continue until March 2018, laying the ground for a potential second phase, with the same energy and passion, and with an openness to further build relationships around the Mediterranean basin countries – north and south – and engage more youth around common actions for a more inclusive and a more sustainable future for all.