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Youth Pay the Price of Crises in the North and South of the Mediterranean

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May 23, 2016 / 0 Comments
Photo: Postmedia News / G. Lowson

Both rims of the Mediterranean region are facing today difficulties, from disarray to impotence, and violent extremism. Young people, bearing the brunt of these worries and of exclusion, are a favorite niche for radical movements. In 3 articles Jacques Ould Aoudia depicts the push and pull effects across the Mediterranean region, playing in favor of violent extremism’ propagation. The author will identify as well key solutions to pulling young Mediterranean people out of this threat.

This article is the first in a series of three.


Both rims of the Mediterranean region are facing today difficulties, from disarray to impotence, and violent extremism. To varying degrees, in both North and South of the Mediterranean sea, societies that have lost their bearings are beset by doubts about their future and even their identity.


Young people on both shores are bearing the brunt of these worries: high rates of school dropout, massive unemployment (most propagated in the South among university graduates), widespread apathy toward public affairs, the loss of the sense of values, a slide towards radicalism, and, for Southern youth it could as well reach the extent of migrating to Europe through the riskiest routes (i.e. Mediterranean crossings). More so political elites in the Mediterranean region have failed to recognize the magnitude of these challenges and have therefore left a large number of young people in a state of confusion.


In the Northern Mediterranean countries, young people are severely hit by the effects of the depression; the young population suffers from large-scale unemployment, a social impasse that no longer supports broad-based higher education, and a loss of direction in Europe vis-a-vis the major political, social, economic and symbolic difficulties. Europe has not found its place in this multipolar world, its influence is declining, and it is becoming a vision-less Europe focused solely on a binary approach (economics/repression) that accentuates divisions in society, entrenches inequalities and favors social exclusion. Even public policy measures that target youth who are at risk, have been cut. This cut accompanied an incapacity to give young people, young social workers and others involved in youth work the long-due recognition they deserve, particularly in disadvantaged zones.


Of those young persons, migrants and descendants of migrant families living in Europe. This specific group of youth faces accumulated difficulties all stemming from the failure of an effective social integration as well as from the direct or indirect stigmatization, a phenomena that is the consequence of the rise of xenophobic parties in Europe.


While on the Southern shore, these difficulties are generally caused from the fact that a minority controls and has the upper hand on the political, economic, and symbolic power which fails to respond to the increase in the number of skilled young people, who aspire to have a place and a contribution to their societies, to influence their communities, and to gain responsibilities in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres.


For the last 60 years, the number of persons holding academic credentials beyond the baccalaureate level has increased exponentially, especially in the Southern Mediterranean countries, as a result of rapid growth of the total population combined with the rapid growth in the number of individuals obtaining the baccalaureate[1].


The opening up of the educational system to the masses, in particular at the post-secondary level,  (in spite of shortcomings in terms of quality) has given many young people the ability to express their opinions, to deliberate, to create and to produce. The downsize to this is that these abilities, which have increased to an unprecedented extent, are not matched by adequate opportunities. Moreover, young people are potentially linked to the entire world through modern communications media.  This has given them a voice and the means to make it heard.


These movements are universal, and constitute a powerful argument militating in favor of major change in the governance of every country, particularly in the South Mediterranean: decentralization and the emergence of localities as places where social, cultural, economic and civic values are achieved.


The countries of the South that do not take into account this emergence of young people’s potential at the local level must brace themselves for serious political crises.

[1] In Morocco for example, during the period of Independence 451 people had an educational level of baccalureate+. At that time, in 1956, political emergencies of the country (to build a nation-state, to give the country the institutional infrastructure of a modern state ...) led a concentration of rare managers trained in a system of modern education to be in the capital, around the state institutions that were going to be built. There was correlation between the demographics of elites (very few) and the political emergencies (to build a state). Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Moroccan men and women who have this level of education. They are spread across the country and request to speak, to take responsibility, to undertake, invest, and act locally. The situation has changed dramatically, and these mutations are the basis of changes in the country's governance (decentralization ...). But, like everywhere else, the old centralist reflexes persist and resist the inclusion of these social changes.


Disclaimer: The content of this blog is the sole responsibility of the author and does not reflect the views of the institutions with which he is affiliated, nor does it reflect the opinion of the Center for Mediterranean Integration.


Jacques OULD AOUDIA is a Development Economics Researcher.

Professional experience: Until 2011: Economist at the Treasury Directorate (Ministry of Economy, France): analysis of the institutional foundations of development economics, in particular in the Arab world. Research associate at the Royal Institute of Strategic Studies (IRES, Morocco).

Volunteer work: President of the “Migration and Development” association established by Moroccan migrants in 1986. Website of the association:

Author of several publications: including: Captation ou création de richesse? Une convergence inattendue entre Nord et Sud, Gallimard, Le Débat n°178, January-February, 2014 ; Des migrants marocains acteurs du développement, (with Yves Bourron), Hommes & Migrations No.1303, July-September, 2013.

Author website:   


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