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Young people and women key to acting on regional challenges

12 February 2017


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Governments must empower young people and women, said the deputy secretary general of the Organisation for the Economic Cooperation Development (OECD).

Governments must empower young people and women, said the deputy secretary general of the Organisation for the Economic Cooperation Development (OECD).

Access to education has made tremendous improvements in MENA countries, said Mari Kiviniemi, during Day One of the 2017 World Government Summit, with the UAE’s youth and adult literacy rate now one of the highest in the region.

Kiviniemi cited the Arab Youth Forum as one of the ways in which governments in the region have sought to tackle the issue of youth empowerment.  

“It is only by helping governments ‘think youth’ and ensure youth voices are heard, that young men and women can be empowered to create their own future,” she said.

“In its Vision 2021, the UAE aspires to achieve social cohesion and happiness, as outlined in the OECD’s 2015 recommendation on gender equality in public life. Gender balance is an important lever.  We have worked with the UAE gender balance council to address the issue of gender balance in the public and private and sector.”

Meanwhile, in Tunisia, there has been a leap forward in terms of the rights of women since the advent of the Arab Spring, she added.

Issues still needing to be addressed include unemployment among MENA youth - the region’s largest population segment for the last 50 years.

There is also a need for the increased engagement of women in the workplace, she said, with 22 per cent female participation in the labour force in the MENA region, compared with around 50 per cent in OECD countries.