Building on the Arab Spring

On 6 December 2011, the Centre for European Studies (CES), with the involvement of the International Republican Institute (IRI), had the pleasure of welcoming friends from North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) to participate in two policy workshops within the framework of the International Visitors’ Programme at the EPP Congress in Marseille. T

he two workshops, titled ‘Youth, education and jobs: investment that makes a difference’ and ‘Inclusion, cooperation and innovation: powerhouses of economic growth’, engaged young activists and leaders from MENA countries in order to define current challenges, brainstorm solutions and explore possibilities for collaboration with Europeans.

Below are five key take-aways from the workshops, generated by the brightest minds in the MENA region. This short list reflects the very latest issues being tackled by the ‘spring generation’ of activists in MENA countries and is intended to provide a basis for future dialogue.

1. Education was by far the most prominent theme in both workshops. Participants agreed that substantial reforms are urgently needed across the MENA region in order to solve a wide range of economic, political and social challenges.

2. One of the main focus points in education reform, from the primary all the way to the university level, should be a greater emphasis on the needs of students as opposed to the needs of teachers, schools or the state.

3. Another focus area should be the correlation between education systems and the actual needs of labour markets, especially in those industries key to spurring economic growth. One potential approach is to focus on ‘centres of excellence’, meaning that specific success stories should be identified, built upon and used as a basis for further reform.

4. In addressing these goals, cooperation is essential, both among MENA countries themselves and between the MENA region and Europe. This cooperation must be broad and must involve not only governments, but also civil society and business groups.

5. Meaningful dialogue and successful cooperation will be most successful if Europeans and Arabs alike make a commitment to seek to better understand and appreciate the viewpoints from which the other is coming. This is especially important when discussing issues such as the inclusion of women in society and in the labour market.

Would you like to make your voice heard on these issues as well? Then participate in the latest initiative of the Centre for European Studies! Go and share your ideas!