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Arab youth as political actors: Strengthening resilience through new forms of engagement


After the optimism that accompanied the popular uprisings of 2011, reform in the Arab region today is losing momentum. Repression, conflict, and instability are affecting many countries and destabilizing institutions and populations. However, there are formal and informal efforts by the region’s people to counter these complex challenges. At the heart of this process are youth, who played an important role in the social movements of 2011 and who continue to form a key pillar of social resilience in the region. Young people have found meaningful ways to resist the regional tendencies, but they have few partners to support them.

To fill that gap, this two-year project, to be managed by the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI), seeks to foster the development of youth as political actors and active citizens engaged in the political, social, economic, and cultural spheres. ARI will work directly with youth, providing concrete strategies and tools that will reinforce their resilience and give them more agency, confidence, and connections to help them enter the traditional political arena.

The aim is to combine action-research methodology to support the social-economic and governance initiatives that youth in different Arab countries have initiated to confront violence and instability, social exclusion, inequality, and weak governance — factors that render societies vulnerable and play a role in radicalization. The project will focus on countries in conflict (Syria) and countries witnessing instability and governance challenges (Lebanon, Tunisia, and Algeria). ARI will work with youth-led initiatives in the countries of focus to shed light on seeds of political and social transformation, including gender relations and human rights, and on the approaches that must be taken to best confront insecurity, exclusion, and weak governance.

The project will identify and support innovative youth-led governance initiatives in Syria, develop strategies to support them, and create ways of sustaining their future viability; strengthen the roles of youth social actors in Algeria, Tunisia, and Lebanon by developing strategies for their direct and indirect engagement with the formal political sector; create networks and connect youth leaders and activists across the region though issue-based and value-based coalitions; and make recommendations for future actions and for collaboration with other social actors, the private sector, and traditional political forces.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
24 months
IDRC Officer
Roula El-Rifai
Total Funding
CA$ 552,000.00
Employment and Growth
Governance and Justice
Institution Country
Project Leader
Bassma Kodmani
ARI, Centre pour une initiative de réforme (ARI)