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The choices facing youth in the Middle East and North Africa

The choices facing youth in the Middle East and North Africa five years after the Arab Spring: A view on Yemen

Speaker: Farea al-Muslimi, co-founder and chairman, Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies

When/Where: Monday, October 17 | 12.10pm-1.10pm | Jerome Greene Hall, Columbia Law School, Room 102B

The Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 gave youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) optimism that democratic change and greater economic opportunity were finally within their reach. These hopes were soon tempered, however, as the remnants of the previous regimes worked to derail political transitions and thwart reforms. Entrenched economic challenges defied short term solutions, while various groups and vested interests promoted social and sectarian divisions, leading to increased violence. Today many Arab countries are mired in a mixture of interstate and intrastate conflict. Economies are collapsing and unemployment is soaring, with unemployment and working poverty rates in the MENA region amongst the highest in the world. Many of these issues predate the current conflicts, but have worsened as a result of the fighting and instability. Young people are often forced to choose between poverty, emigration, or joining the payrolls of state or non-state actors perpetuating the armed confrontations.

What are the options for youth in the MENA region five years after the Arab Spring? This talk will offer insight into the Arab World generally, as well as a specific focus on Yemen – where a brutal civil war has resulted in one of the most catastrophic humanitarian crises of our time, despite the successful and largely peaceful removal of an authoritarian ruler five years earlier. This talk will also explore the crucial role that youth within any society can play in promoting meaningful and lasting peace and security for their country, and freedom and opportunity for their people and the world. Specifically, we will look at how university students can support freedom movements and peace globally.

****Farea al-Muslimi is a human rights advocate and researcher from Yemen. He is co-founder and chairman of Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. He is also a non-resident fellow at Carnegie Middle East Center, Middle East Institute in Washington DC, and board adviser of the Arab Gulf and Yemen at Chatham House in London. In 2013, Foreign Policy Magazine named Farea in its list of 100 leading global thinkers. In 2014, he was named as one of The Guardian’s top 30 young leaders under 30 in digital media. In 2016, the UN General-Secretary appointed Farea to his advisory board for the Security Council-mandated progress study on Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security.

Hosted by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, & the Middle East Institute at Columbia University

A non-pizza lunch will be provided.