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The Choices Facing Youth in the Middle East and North Africa Five Years After the Arab Spring: A Perspective from Yemen

With Farea al-Muslimi, Cofounder and Chairman, Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies


The Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 gave young people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) optimism that democratic change and greater economic opportunity was 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, and various groups and vested interests promoted social and sectarian divisions and correspondingly, greater levels of violence. Today many Arab countries are mired in a mixture of interstate and intrastate conflict. Economies are collapsing and unemployment is soaring. Unemployment and working poverty rates in the MENA region are amongst the highest in the world. These issues predate the current conflicts, but have been greatly exacerbated by them. Young people often face the choice between destitution for them and their families, emigration, or joining the payroll of one of the many 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 on the Arab World generally, as well as a specific focus on Yemen – where a brutal civil war rages that 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 on earlier. This talk will also explore the crucial role 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, and the Middle East Institute at Columbia University.

A non-pizza lunch will be provided.

For more information on this event and to RSVP, please click here.