The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen are working on a regional project to facilitate youth volunteerism for positive and sustainable social change. Formalized during the project's first board meeting in Amman in April 2013, Arab Youth Volunteering for a Better Future is currently being implemented in the five countries, following a year-long process of national consultations with youth in the region. The regional project aims to harness the power of youth and their energy through volunteerism.
As volunteers, young men and women can be positive agents of change within their communities, taking the lead in development and reconciliation initiatives and building trust and cooperation among communities.
Five national consultations were carried out during 2012 to have a better understanding of the capacities and needs regarding volunteerism in the region, more specifically in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen. The consultations brought together youth and other key stakeholders, including government representatives, international organizations and donors, to facilitate a participatory dialogue.
The results of the consultations showed that the challenges faced by youth in relation to volunteerism were similar in the five countries: unemployment and lack of financial support; cultural norms restricting the ability of certain groups to participate in civic engagement; lack of social or legal frameworks to support voluntary action; and the lack of a culture of volunteering. The Arab Youth Volunteering for a Better Future projects addresses these issues to advance youth volunteerism in the region, in line with the United Nations regional strategies and the UN Secretary Generals Five Year Action Agenda, which highlights the importance of working with and for young people as a priority.
In some of the countries taking part in the project, and with UNVs support, national initiatives are already in place to promote volunteerism. In Jordan, for example, the Voluntary Initiatives Network is a competition aiming to spread the culture of volunteering in Jordan and to act as a national platform for launching and accelerating social initiatives. The competition creates opportunities for young volunteers and social entrepreneurs to interact and meet with NGOs, investors and representatives of the private sector.
In Yemen, a focus group was organized with 20 young members of the National Dialogue an on-going conference gathering over 500 Yemenis from an array of backgrounds and ideologies, aiming to lay the grounds for a new constitution. At the focus group, the young members were asked to discuss their perceptions on youth volunteerism and engagement. Many views were expressed, but all agreed on a strong need for capacity-building and training to facilitate youth civic engagement in the country.
"Im pleased to see this pilot project taking shape. Volunteers are proven to be more prepared and engaged in the development of their communities, and working with youth through volunteerism is the key to ensuring a better future, with equal opportunities, said Ahmad Alhendawi, recently appointed as the first UN Envoy on Youth. Initiatives like these are what young people are expecting from us: concise, tangible and high-impact."