The second part of this analysis of the Arab Human Disaster examines what has happened to young people, using data from the Arab Human Development Report 2016. It also looks at trends revealed in the UN's Human Development Report 2015, as well providing analysis of health issues in the Eastern Mediterranean based on recently published findings in the medical journal, The Lancet.
According to the Arab Human Development Report 2016, two-thirds of the Arab region’s population is below thirty years of age, half of it in the 15-29 year age group. There are over one hundred million people in the latter age group. The huge number of young people in the prime of their working life and productive ability could provide a huge potential for advancing economic and social development.
This generation is better educated and more active and connected to the outside world than its predecessors. It also has a greater awareness of its potential opportunities and has higher aspirations for a better future. This potential has to be seen in light of a reality that marginalizes them and limits not only their freedom of expression but also their ability to become productive members of society. As a result, instead of being a massive source of potential for building the future, youth can become a source of destruction.
The wars now destroying Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen are taking place against a background of serious economic and demographic problems in the region. The human development index (a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living) improved more slowly in region since the Arab Spring began in 2010 than it did before. It also improved more slowly than the developing countries and world averages. It seems that the effects of conflict in part of the region outweighed improvements in the more prosperous and stable countries such as the Gulf.
Table 1 shows demographic trends. Although the population growth rate has decelerated, the region experienced much faster growth than in the comparators and this is expected to continue over the coming years, despite the effects of conflict.
Table 1: Demographic Trends, 2000-2030
Table 2: Literacy, education, and health spending