New UN-backed scheme seeks to boost employment for youth in Middle East

2 June 2008

A new United Nations-backed initiative has been launched to create employment opportunities for young people in the Middle East, where nearly three-quarters of youth are unemployed in some of the region’s countries.

Silatech, which means “your connection” in Arabic, is a “major youth employment initiative aimed at connecting young people, particularly first time job seekers, to networks of employers and business partners and at the same time provide them with practical ready-to-use support to build their skills and their access to capital,” Shamil Idriss, Acting Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations told reporters in New York.

Initially targeted at four Arab nations – Bahrain, Qatar, Syria and Yemen – it is intended to expand to other areas in the coming years.

With high youth unemployment rates in the Arab region, governments are under pressure to create work and expand their labour markets. “More jobs need to be created essentially in the next 15 years than the region has produced in the past 50 years,” Mr. Idriss noted.

Silatech, which is currently holding a summit co-hosted by the Financial Times in Doha, Qatar, is taking a three-pronged approach, comprising pushing for policy change; supporting skill building skill-boosting with corporate partners such as Nike and enhancing access to capital; and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of young people through outreach efforts.

To the Alliance of Civilizations – which was established in 2005 by Spain and Turkey under UN auspices to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide – Silatech is significant in the “different elements of cooperation that are involved at a very high level,” according to Mr. Idriss.

“First, there’s the cooperation between governments and corporations and others based in predominantly Muslim countries on the one hand, and in the West on the other hand which is the priority issue for which the Alliance was initially founded,” he noted.

Furthermore, the cooperation engendered by Silatech reaches across the private sector, government, think tanks, and the media among others, and also promotes intra-Arab collaboration, Mr. Idriss said.

 

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