Written by: Dr. Yehya Qa’oud
The occasion of International Youth Day provides us with the opportunity to analyse the reality of young men and women in Palestine, as they are the key factors in modernization and development, ensuring its progress and prosperity in the present and the future. Accordingly, this analysis reviews the reality of Palestinian youth and their challenges, in light of the Palestinian division and the ambiguity of the prospect of a political solution. It also aims to provide decision-makers with a set of solutions, policies and required interventions, which would contribute to strengthening the Palestinian youth's capital and stopping the losses resulting from their social, economic and political reality.
Youth and Successive Losses:
After we have passed the middle of 2022, it is necessary to review and analyse the reality of the Palestinian youth sector, within the age group of (18-29) years. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, young people constitute one-fifth of Palestinian society, i.e., (22%) of the total population in Palestine in the middle of 2021. As for the age group (0-14) - the youth of tomorrow - they represent a third of the Palestinian society, which in the middle of 2022 represented about 38% of the total population in Palestine, i.e., 36% in the West Bank and 41% in the Gaza Strip.
For years, youth have suffered successive losses at all levels, including political, economic, social, cultural and educational. The most dangerous of these was the division, which led to more complications and challenges for youth, in addition to its negative effects that cast a shadow on all aspects of their life. The main dimensions that explain the losses of Palestinian youth are concentrated in a number of aspects. We find that the forced exclusion from political participation, in light of the disruption of the general elections, in addition to the irregular conduct of local elections (chronologically and geographically), leads to a geographical division that is driven by a political division and is not far from an economic reality in which the readings of the overall indicators are rising towards the abyss. It is highlighted by unprecedented global unemployment figures, which reached about 69% amongst young people in the Gaza Strip and about 28% in the West Bank.
This means that Palestinian economic activities have become inefficient for generating job opportunities. Not to mention the continuous shocks that the Palestinian society is subjected to as a result of the Israeli occupation, which leads to high levels of violence, and the dangerous repercussions of the division on maintaining civil peace in the Palestinian society. The lack of confidence in the future, made the youth lose their sense of belonging and identity, and reinforced the idea of escaping from reality by requesting to emigrate abroad, especially the youth in the Gaza Strip.
Future Prospects: Required Policies and Interventions
First: Stopping Losses:
The World Bank has designed a “Human Capital” strategy with the aim of promoting and accelerating the increase in the quantity and quality of investments in people in order to promote equity and economic growth at the global level. With regard to Palestinian data, the World Bank report, "Human Capital Index 2020" indicated that the productivity of a child born in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is (58%) if they receive integrated education and health services, which is higher than the average in the Middle East and North Africa and other countries with the lowest income.
Thus, strengthening “human capital” in Palestine begins with strengthening and building “social capital.” The years of the division made the urgent need for solidarity, interdependence and joint action clearer, in addition to building a kind of trust and a sense of public or collective interest that we have been sorely lacking during the past years. The current Palestinian reality is dispersed and unclear in all aspects and arenas, i.e., politically, economically, socially and educationally, along with the changes that have occurred during the past years in Palestinian society. The policy of stopping losses begins through a value system accompanied by a shift from relief to development, driven by real networking between civil society frameworks, improving youths’ response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digitization requirements and moving towards unifying strategies directed to youth based on theories of social capital. The foregoing strengthens the tools of resilience in light of the excesses of the occupation or even natural disasters, as what happened with Covid.
Second: Creating Young Leaders:
There are many scientific theories that have examined the phenomenon of “leadership.” What concerns us from all these theoretical approaches is the way they are applied to Palestinian capital - youth, starting with the interest in education and health at an early age (0-14) years old. Creating conscious young leaders who understand the challenges of the future and consolidate the meanings of creativity and innovation at an early age is much more important than projecting leadership theories on young people. The Palestinian youth sector can be strengthened by modernizing the education system, in line with the Palestinian environment, and establishing social investment at an early age in order to create a stimulating environment for young people, to discover themselves, achieve their goals and acquire skills and knowledge that are later reflected in their behavior and lifestyles.
In conclusion, the process of modernization and development for Palestinian youth requires drawing up plans and programmes for different age groups, and not leaving them or postponing them until the division is completed and elections are held. How can youth participate politically, economically and socially without a sound upbringing?!
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.