In the Spring of 2022, MENAACTION launched a periodic survey to gauge respondents’ perceptions on political, socioeconomic, and environment related factors. This survey explores how the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region would look like, politically, economically, and environmentally if youth were its leaders. In June 2023, MENAACTION conducted the second wave of the survey to extrapolate changes between the two years.
Track youth’s perceptions in terms of a series of political, economic, and environmental governance matters;
Provide a picture of how the region would look like if youth were to have a wider space to assume their roles as political, economic, and environmental decision- makers; and
Understanding the major issues facing youth in the MENA region and their root causes to essentially provide policy recommendations that can effectively address these challenges.
The total achieved sample is 2,237 respondents from 19 countries, namely Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia from North Africa; Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria from the Mashreq; and Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen from the Arab Gulf.
Looking at demographic breakdown, the sample featured a 50-50 male to female ratio. The sample also comprised of 65.3% of respondents aged 18-34 and 34.7% of individuals aged 35 and older. Additionally, 52.5% of the respondents hold a bachelor’s degree, 13.2% hold a master’s degree or higher, 12.7% hold a diploma or completed 2 years of college, 15.1% completed secondary education, 4.8% underwent vocational or technical training, and 1.7% completed basic or elementary education.
Moreover, 50.7% of the respondents were employed, either full time or part time, along with 11.6% who were self-employed; 19.4% were unemployed; 9.9% were current students; 7.6% housewives; 0.4% were unable to work due to a disability; and 0.3% retired.
The survey was conducted online, using KoBotoolbox. MENAACTION ran paid promotions on its Facebook page to acquire respondents. MENAACTION faced a number of challenges during the data collection phase. Initially, the survey was advertised in all countries across the MENA region; however, a number of countries did not record any responses, propelling MENAACTION to approach CSOs in these countries to help with outreach. Secondly, certain countries were recording low participation rates. As such, MENAACTION focused more promotions in these countries along, which resulted positively. Finally, the male to female ratio was lower than the regional average; therefore, MENAACTION weighted the responses to ensure equal representation.
In a region where nearly 30% of its population aged 15-30, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to a bright generation of driven young people who strive to advance and develop their countries. There have been numerous initiatives over the past ten years aimed at enhancing the level of youth inclusion in their countries’ decision-making processes. While the current level of such engagement remains low, this report looks to illustrate a clearer picture of the benefits that would result should youth be given their rightful opportunities. More specifically, MENAACTION conducted an online survey featuring 1,324 respondents from 14 countries to explore how the MENA region would look like, politically, economically, and environmentally if youth were its leaders.
Challenges Facing Youth in the MENA Region
The survey results show that a staggering 78.3% of the respondents believe that their countries are headed in the wrong direction. Data from the World Values Survey and the Arab Barometer unveil low levels of public confidence in governments across the region, particularly among youth. This was mirrored in the survey results, as 69.1% of the respondents believe that their countries treat youth very badly or somewhat badly, compared to just 13% who stated that their countries treat them very well or somewhat well.
Much of these perceptions stem from perceptions of government inabilities to create jobs, respond to citizen needs, and address the stagnant corruption that has long engulfed the administrative sector. To that end, the survey results found that 64.6% of the respondents highlighted economic issues as the main challenges facing youth in the MENA region.
This was divided between 44.4% who indicated unemployment, lack of job opportunities and lack of proper support for young entrepreneurs; 10.5% who stated poverty and difficulty to make ends meet; and 9.7% who indicated that they fear the unknown future and have been denied from fulfilling their aspirations. Further, some 13.5% of the respondents outlined challenges pertaining to the lack of safety and security, prevalence of armed conflicts and sectarianism, and the poor education systems.
Other notable challenges included 14.4% who believe that they are being actively excluded from the political and public life within their countries, as their attempts to improve the overall conditions tend to be faced with rejection, especially since 5.5% of the respondents referred to their countries’ misgovernance, administrative and financial corruption, and nepotism and favoritism as the main challenge they face.
Youth Perceptions on Politics and Governance
The respondents ranked a number of different political systems to determine which systems would be most appropriate to govern their countries. The results show that if we were to rank these political systems in terms of respondents’ favorability toward them, plural democracy that is inclusive of all would rank highest, followed by the rule of experts, then religious laws, then army rule, and finally authoritarian rule.
Next, the respondents indicated a number of characteristics they believe are tenets of good governance. Further analysts shows that the way youth perceive good governance is somewhat synonymous with advanced liberal democracy.
In fact, liberty ranked first with emphasis on political and social rights as the most important element of good governance; followed by rule of law, with proper separation of powers and checks and balances; then economic benefits by way of ensuring economic equality (social democracy); and finally, participation and competition.
While youth face a number of imminent challenges in the region, the majority of respondents maintained that intricate reform should take precedence to rushed reform. Additionally, the majority of the respondents also believe that it is unacceptable to use of Wasta (nepotism) to obtain the services they want but may not be entitled to or even to obtain their rightful services.
Youth Perceptions on Economics Governance
The survey also looked to gauge the respondents’ perceptions on how they believe their countries’ economies should be run. First, 69.4% indicated that there should be greater incentives for individual effort as opposed to making incomes more equal. This highlights youth’s value for individual effort.
On the other hand, 77.3% of the respondents believe that governments should take more responsibility to ensure that everyone is provided for, compared to 19.4% who believe that people should take more responsibility to provide for themselves.
These two results signify that most youth in the MENA region believe in a certain welfare baseline, whereby everyone is provided for while maintaining proper incentives for individual effort. They do want to see a greater governmental role when it comes to public service provision that can ensure proper welfare, human security, and socioeconomic support while also operating within an economic scheme that promotes individual effort.
Looking at which priorities governments ought to focus on to improve economic conditions, achieving a high economic growth and maintaining a stable economy featured heavily in the results, followed by a portion of the respondents who wanted to see more input from citizens, and another group who emphasized strengthening countries’ defense systems and reforming the education systems. When it comes to public spending, the education system ranked highest with 57.1%, followed by the healthcare system and national security.
Youth Perceptions on Foreign Relations
In this section, the survey looked to illustrate which countries youth want theirs to have closer political, economic, security, and cultural ties. For political alliances, 15.4% of youth indicated Arab states in general, including the Gulf countries, followed by 15.3% for the United States – as the highest percentage for a single country, 8.8% for Russia and 7.7% for Turkey.
For economic alliances, Arab states in general, including the Gulf states, ranked highest with 27.3% of the respondents, given the financial capacity of these countries. 19.4% of the respondents indicated China, as the highest percentage for a single country, demonstrating its tremendous economic prowess. Turkey and the United States followed with 8.2% and 7.6%, respectively.
As for security alliances, 16.9% and 15.2% of the respondents believe their countries should align with the United States and with Russia, respectively, especially given their strong defense systems and advanced militaries. It is likely that Russia might not have ranked this high had it not been for its invasion of Ukraine, which probably enhanced the respondents’ perceptions of its power. In third came Arab states in general, coupled with 6.6% for Egypt and 5.7% for the Gulf states, as Arab militaries have been involved in a variety of operations and coalitions lately.
For cultural alliances, 37.2% indicated Arab countries in general, which stems from the prevalence of cinematography, music, art, publications, and more importantly, language. Further, 17.6% indicated Western European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, and Finland. 6.9% referred to Turkey, mostly due to its influence on pop culture across the region.
The Environment and Climate Action
The last section of the survey focused on youth’s perceptions in relation to climate change and climate action. Looking at the extent to which environmental protection should be prioritized as opposed to economic growth, the results show that nearly half the respondents believe that should be case, even if it causes slower economic growth and job losses.
This was mirrored by 64.4% of the respondents who indicated that climate change is an issue that is very important to them personally, coupled with 26.5% who stated that it was important, as 31.2% of the respondents indicated that they have taken or regularly take actions out of concern for climate change. Such figures illustrate a high level of attention to face this global challenge coupled with a growing interest, as 49.6% of the respondents stated that they are becoming more interested in taking action out of concern for climate change.
Additionally, when the survey examined the respondents attitudes and intentions toward climate action, the results show that youth would consider to alter their daily routines to protect the environment.
This included using greener sources of energy, taking part in support campaigns, recycling waste, buying organic food, and even leaving their jobs if they caused harm to the environment. As such, with the right campaigns and with better investment in proper public transportation networks, youth of the MENA region can play a massive role in respond to the imminent threat of climate change.
The Relations between Diffuse and Performance-Specific Trust with Reform
A Research Report
The Middle East and North Africa region boasts populations whose pride in their nations remains at a high level. The region also enjoys a youth cohort with tremendous energy, entrepreneurship, and endurance, which otherwise is unfortunately and mistakenly labeled as “the youth bulge”. Such a cohort has worked tirelessly to improve their livelihoods and the conditions of their respective countries, whether in the form of collective activism or individual work. In this report, we sought to explore the relations between nationalism or national pride and youth’s tendency to admit to the existence of an issue and in turn, reform or change.
For this research, we examined data gathered by the World Values Survey, the Arab Barometer, the Afro Barometer, and the Arab Center. The data examined reflects a youth cohort of the individual countries, aged 18-30, as part of nationally representative samples. In examining the data, we further curated them on a scale of 1 to 4, whereby 1 was the lowest and 4 was the highest on the scale:
1 = do not trust at all/ no confidence at all;
2 = do not trust to an extent/ low level of confidence;
3 = trust to an extent/ moderate level of confidence;
4 = trust to a great extent/ very high level of confidence
Public confidence or trust was defined as inclusive of two types. The first type delved into people’s attachment to country symbols as the level of belonging to their individual states, which can be labeled as diffuse support. The second type reflects public trust or confidence in the performance of public institutions in meeting their objectives.
In order to further prove, disprove, or refine the hypotheses made in this report, an in-depth research with more detailed and specific questions and to cross-examine such data to better understand how youth’s willingness to acknowledge the existence of issues and need for change varies with the level of their national pride. Such a research can also be accompanied by an observatory study of engaging youth of different nationalities in discussion with one another and contrasting their attitudes when discussion groups feature different nationalities, which arguably can stimulate nationalism. Nevertheless, this report looks to start a discussion on this matter and engage with young people in the region in a conversation about reform.
Diffuse Trust and Performance-Specific Confidence
Looking at individual countries’ youth populations’ trust levels revealed interesting findings. The individual scores of diffused trust and performance-specific confidence were aggregated under composite scores for each category. The first category included indicators such as national pride level, trust in the armed forces, affinity with the nation, and willingness to fight for country, among others. The second category included an evaluation of the performance of the governments, the legislative councils, the judiciary, the healthcare system, the educational system, among others.
With that, Algerian youth illustrated a diffuse trust/ national pride level of 3.19 out of 4, compared to only 1.82 level of performance-specific confidence, with a 1.37 difference in favor of the first. Bahrain’s youth national pride level was a little lower with 2.90, about 0.65 higher than its confidence in public institutions with 2.25. As for Egypt, a 3.50 national pride level, compared to 1.92 confidence level in public institutions, which stood 1.58 points below the first. Iranian youth showed similar pride levels to Egypt, but indicated slightly higher public confidence with 2.4, about 1 point lower than its pride levels. Iraqi youth’s pride levels stood at 3.38, almost double its 1.66 confidence in public institutions. Jordanian youth’s diffuse trust was the second highest in the region with 3.75, contrasted by a 2.08 confidence level.
As for Kuwaiti youth, their diffuse trust stood at 3.28, compared to their 2.18 performance-specific trust. Lebanese youth’s pride level with slightly higher than Kuwait’s with 3.35, but it was lower in terms of specific trust with 1.88, with a 1.47 difference between the two categories.
Libyan and Mauritanian youth scored very similar diffuse trust levels with 3.24 and 3.29, respectively, compared to a 1.72 and 1.96 performance-specific confidence levels, with Mauritanian youth illustrating some moderate levels of confidence, especially in terms of civil service. Moroccan and Mauritanian youth boasted identical levels of diffuse trust with 3.32, but Oman’s public confidence in the performance of institution higher than Morocco’s with 2.67 compared to 1.69 for the later, mostly due to Omani youth’s satisfaction with its healthcare services. Data for Palestinian youth was harder to find, given their circumstances. Their diffuse trust stood at 2.92, as the second lowest in the region, while their performance-specific confidence appeared exactly in the middle of the scale with 2. Qatari youth indicated the highest levels of confidence in both categories with 3.87 diffused trust and 3.55 for the second category, due to their high satisfaction with civil service, judiciary, and even the government.
Saudi Arabian youth showed similar patterns to that of Qatar, with a 3.69 diffused trust level, compared to a 3.03 performance specific trust. It is also worth noting that such a number might have been higher if it were not for moderate confidence in labor unions. Sudanese youth’s diffuse trust stood at 3.06, contrasted with a 2.01 performance-specific trust levels, as its government, elections, political parties, and parliament all evaluated under 2 points. Similar to Palestine, data for Syria was somewhat difficult to gather, so we relied on slightly older data. Nevertheless, Syrian youth indicated a diffuse trust level of 2.88, compared to a 1.55 performance-specific confidence, which was the lowest among the countries studied, with a notable 0.93 confidence level in civil services.
Tunisian youth illustrated a high diffuse trust level with 3.46, about 1.75 points higher than their performance specific confidence, which stood at 1.75. Turkish youth indicated one of the highest diffuse trust levels with 3.23, compared to their 2.55 trust level in their public institutions, with a notable high confidence levels in the judiciary. Youth of the UAE’s diffuse trust stood at 3.64 was the fourth highest, below Qatar, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, and their performance-specific confidence was the second highest with 3.35, second only to Qatar’s 3.55. Finally, Yemeni youth illustrated high levels of diffuse trust with 3.46, similar to that of Saudi Arabia, compared to its performance specific confidence level of 2.24.
Looking at the overall average of the two categories, we find that the average diffuse trust levels stood at 3.34 out of 4, which means it was between “trust to an extent” and “trust to a great extent”. On the other hand, the average performance-specific confidence levels stood at 2.20 out of 4, which was between “trust to an extent” and “do not trust to an extent”. While the average performance-specific confidence was somewhat higher than initially anticipated, it was still 1.14 below that of diffuse trust. Further, such high levels of national pride or diffuse trust should not stand in the way of demanding better and higher quality performance from public institutions.
Sub-regionally, North African youth’s average diffuse trust stood at 3.29, compared to an average of 1.83 performance-specific trust. West Asian youth’s average diffuse trust was also 3.29 while their average performance specific confidence stood at 2.02, slightly higher than that of North Africa. Youth of the Gulf averaged the highest diffuse trust level with 3.45 as well as the highest performance-specific confidence level with 2.75.
North Africa Sub-Region
Looking more specifically at the individual component scores for each country, we provide the highest and lowest trust/confidence levels for each country, divided by subregions. For North Africa, Egyptian youth noted the highest individual diffuse trust level, in the form of a 3.80 national affinity level, followed by Libya’s 3.72 national affinity level, and Tunisia’s national affinity with 3.61. Morocco and Algeria followed with 3.54 and 3.46, respectively, both for “national pride”. Mauritanian youth’s highest component was a 3.29 confidence level in the military. Finally, Sudanese youth’s highest component was a 3.17 national affinity level.
On the other hand, Algerian youth noted the lowest component, which was in the form of a 0.90 confidence level in elections. This was mirrored in low turnout and boycott calls. Egyptian and Mauritanian youth underscored the second lowest component, as Egyptian youth noted a 0.92 confidence level in labor unions and Mauritanian youth illustrated another 0.92 confidence level in healthcare services. Moroccan youth also had little confidence in elections with 1.19 confidence level, as Tunisian youth’s lowest trust component was a 1.20 confidence level in political parties, and Libyan and Sudanese youth illustrated similar disenchantment with elections with a 1.25 and 1.53 confidence levels. National affinity and national pride were among the highest scoring indicators in this sub-region, yet the lowest scoring indicators were ultimately mostly institutions of democracy such as elections, labor unions, and political parties.
West Asia Sub-Region
As for West Asia, Jordanian youth’s highest component came in the form of a 3.85 national affinity level, followed by a 3.69 and 3.6 for Lebanese and Iranian youth, in the same category. Palestinian youth’s highest individual indicator was a 3.58 national pride level, followed by a 3.56 national affinity level for Iraqi youth. Turkish youth’s highest individual component was a 3.36 national pride level, as Syria’s highest individual indicator came in the form of a 2.88 confidence level in the military, albeit data on Syria is slightly older than the other countries.
Syrian youth indicated the lowest confidence level in this sub-region, with a 0.93 confidence level in civil service, followed by 1.20 and 1.24 confidence level in political parties for each of Jordan and Iraq, respectively. Palestinian youth’s lowest individual indicator was a 1.31 confidence level in elections while Lebanese youth’s lowest indicator came in the form of a 1.35 confidence in healthcare services, also cited as the lowest by Iranian youth, with a 1.84 confidence level. Turkish youth’s lowest single indicator was a 2.27 confidence level in labor unions. Similar to North Africa sub-region, the highest scoring indicators were mostly national affinity and national pride, whereas the lowest scoring indicators were split between institutions of democracy and those of public services.
The Gulf Sub-Region
Individual indicators for the Gulf sub-region were on average higher than those of the other two sub-regions. Qatari youth’s highest individual indicator was 3.97 national pride level, the highest single indicator across all countries. Yemeni youth also boasted a high level of national pride with 3.81, followed by 3.76 and 3.64 confidence level in the military for Saudi Arabian and Emirati youth. Kuwait youth’s highest indicator was a 3.59 national pride level, followed by 3.32 confidence level for the military for Omani youth, and finally a 3.24 national pride level for Bahraini youth.
On the other hand, Yemeni youth’s lowest single indicator was a 0.94 confidence level in labor unions, which was also the lowest single indicator for both of Kuwait and Bahrain with a 1 and 1.94 confidence levels, respectively. Omani youth’s lowest single indicator came in the form a 2.04 confidence level in the educational system. Saudi youth’s lowest indicator was a 2.40 confidence level in labor unions. As for Emirati youth, the lowest indicator was still a relatively high level of confidence (3.00) in the judicial system, as Qatari youth’s lowest indicator was also a high level of confidence (3.18) in the educational system. In short, the Gulf sub-region’s highest levels were divided between national pride and confidence in the military while their lowest scoring indicators were labor unions, followed by educational systems.
Most Pressing Challenges
The sub-regional brief analysis shows that national pride and national affinity were the highest scoring single indicators and notably higher than youth’s confidence in public institutions. In fact, the institutions which received the lowest performance evaluation were civil service, labor unions, elections, political parties, and healthcare services. Such poor evaluation is consistent to the major challenges facing people in the MENA region. With the COVID-19 global pandemic persisting, the three main and recurring challenges can be grouped under (1) economic challenges, including unemployment, price hikes, poverty, and deteriorating livelihoods; (2) government performance in terms of weak public services including health, education, and transportation, coupled with financial and administrative corruption; and (3) security related challenges including safety and political stability. The fact that these challenges continue to linger and remain under-addressed explains the low evaluation public institutions in meeting their objectives.
The main take-aways of this brief report shows that young people in the MENA region boast high levels of pride in and belonging to their respective nations. But their confidence in public institutions in addressing their needs and meeting their objectives remains low, specifically, about 1.14 points out of 4, lower than their average diffuse trust levels. While the gap is clear, a tendency to overlook, downplay, deprioritize, or even ignore the challenges we face remains a trend in the region.
In an attempt to explain this discrepancy, there are three main arguments in mainstream political literature. The first argument states that people’s national affinity or national pride would heighten when their countries are compared to others, propelling them to defend their countries’ shortcomings. The second argument entails that people’s national identity, and by proxy national pride, heightens when their countries face security-related challenges. This bears resemblance to the “security-human rights” debate, for which human rights is believed to take a backseat to safety and security. The third hypothesis indicates that governments have, in one shape or form, implanted the idea that criticizing government performance automatically means criticizing the country, and in turn reflects negatively on one’s patriotism or love for nation, and even means “defection”.
The State of Legislative Elections in the Middle East and North Africa
A Research Report
For this report, MENAACTION presents the findings of our most recent research project on the state of legislative elections in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. We compared the difference between voting age and candidacy age in each country in the region; we studied the variation between the national average for voter turnout in the most recent elections in each country and the voter turnout rates for youth; we outlined the percentage of women in each country’s legislative councils; and we illustrated the dates for the upcoming legislative elections in each country in the region. Before delving into the findings of the research, it is important to outline a number of important definitions.
Legislative Assemblies: A branch of government that generally has the authority to make laws and keep other branches accountable. The formation and roles of a legislative assembly varies by country; whereby in many countries, members are appointed, and their roles are just a formality. It is also worth mentioning that legislative assemblies’ names vary from country to another, including the House of Representatives, People’s National Assembly, the Parliament, the House of Deputies, and the Shura Council, among others.
Voting Age: The minimum age established by law that a person must attain before they become eligible to vote. The most common voting age is 18, but some countries require different ages.
Candidacy Age: The minimum age at which a person can legally qualify to stand or run for elections or hold certain elected offices.
Voter Turnout: The percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election. This is calculated by dividing the number of those who cast ballots over the total number of voting-eligible population (not the total adult population).
Youth Voter Turnout: The percentage of youth eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election. This is calculated by dividing the number of young people under 30, who cast ballots, divided over the total number of voting-eligible population.
For this research, we relied on raw data produced by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the World Values Survey Wave 7, the Arab Barometer Wave V, and the Afro-Barometer Wave 7.
Voting Age vs. Candidacy Age
Looking at the difference between voting age and candidacy age, we find that 14 of 21 countries in the region adhere to universal suffrage, placing the minimum age legally required to vote at 18 calendar years, culminating into an average of 18.67 years. Additionally, 7 different countries adopted different internal laws stipulating other ages. For example, Iran chose the minimum legal age required at 15 (as the lowest minimum age required in the region); Sudan selected 17; Bahrain selected 20; Kuwait, Lebanon, and Oman require 21 years of age; and the UAE require 25 years of age as the highest minimum age required in the region.
As for the minimum legal age required for citizens to stand for or run for legislative elections, also known as candidacy age, we found that Morocco and Tunisia stipulate the lowest age in the region with 23 years of age while Sudan has the highest candidacy age of 40. Further, 9 different countries selected 25 as the most common minimum age required to run for legislative elections. These countries are Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Syria, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen. Additionally, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar require 30, as Palestine selected 28, albeit the last legislative elections they had was back in 2006. Overall, the average candidacy age in the region was found to be 27.57.
Voter Turnout in the Latest Legislative Elections
We, then, looked at the voter turnout rates for the most recent legislative elections in each country. As indicated earlier, voter turnout is the percentage of eligible voters who voted in an election. The percentage is calculated by dividing the number of those who voted (without any violations) over the total voting-eligible population (not to be mistaken with the total adult population). There are a number of factors we did not delve into in this research, such as voting laws, registration laws, and whether voting is compulsory or not.
With that, we found that Turkey holds the highest voter turnout with 86.2%, recorded at the legislative elections of 2018. It is indicated that Turkey has, theoretically, compulsory voting, but it is not enforced. Palestine’s 2006 legislative elections (the most recent in Palestine) recorded a 77.7% voter turnout. Third, Yemen recorded 75% voter turnout, albeit back in 2003, which is still the most recent legislative elections in Yemen, as subsequent rounds have not seen the light since then. Qatar’s 2016 and Mauritania’s 2018 legislative elections recorded 72.5% each in voter turnout, followed by 70% for Kuwait. Bahrain recorded 67% voter turnout in their legislative elections of 2018, followed by Syria with 57.6% in 2016. It is worth mentioning that there was not sufficient, accurate, or reliable data for Syria’s elections for the People’s National Assembly held in July of 2020. Nonetheless, Lebanon’s 2018 legislative elections recorded a turnout of 49.7%, followed by Oman’s 2019 elections with 49%, Sudan’s 2015 legislative elections with 46.4%, Iraq with 44.9%, Morocco’s 2016 legislative elections with 43%, Iran’s 2020 legislative elections with a voter turnout of 42.3%, and Tunisia and Libya with 41.7% in 2019 and 2014 respectively. On that note, Libya has not yet held legislative elections since 2014. Furthermore, Jordan’s 2016 legislative elections recorded a voter turnout of 36.1%, as registration is automatic. Algeria’s 2017 legislative elections recorded 35.4%, amid boycott calls. UAE’s 2019 Federal National Council elections resulted in 34.8% in voter turnout, albeit voting for 50% of the 40-member council, as the remaining 20 members are appointed. Finally, Egypt’s 2015 House of Representatives elections yielded the lowest voter turnout in the region with 28.3%. It is also worth mentioning that members of the Shura Council in Saudi are directly appointed.
There a number of factors impacting voter turnout. These factors include electoral competitiveness, confidence in elections, electoral laws, registration process, and the socioeconomic status of the voter. Meaning, if elections are held on a weekday, voters who are not well-off may not afford asking their employers for a day off. Additionally, voting stations may not be easily accessible to everyone. Furthermore, we found low levels of confidence in both the electoral process and in legislative councils across the MENA region, whereby 50% indicated that they did not trust their national parliaments at all, coupled with 24.9% who indicated they did not trust their national parliaments that much, compared with 37.5% and 26.8%, respectively, for elections, according to the World Values Survey.
Youth Voter Turnout for the Most Recent Legislative Elections
Looking more specifically at youth voter turnout for the most recent legislative elections across the region, we found that data was not easily available. Essentially, most source were abstract and did not include any figures, instead, they only indicated whether it was higher or lower than the national average. With that, we relied on scientific public opinion polling while acknowledging a ±2.5% margin of error. The figures indicated below refer to the percentages of young voting-eligible population who indicated they voted in their country’s most recent legislative elections. It is also worth mentioning that there was not any data available for Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, or Syria.
Similar to the national average, Turkey also recorded the highest youth voter turnout with 90.3%, albeit voting is compulsory in Turkey as we previously mentioned. Palestine also ranked second with 67.3% youth voter turnout, followed by Qatar with 62.6%, Iran with 56.9%, and Iraq with 56.3%. Yemen recorded 51.8%, followed by Bahrain with 51.6%, Lebanon with 47.6%, and Sudan with 46%. Jordan recorded 37.9% in youth voter turnout, followed by Tunisia with 36.3%, Libya with 36.1%, and Kuwait with 36%. Further, Algeria recorded 33.8% in youth voter turnout, as many youth-led demonstrations called for boycotts. Morocco recorded 32.9%, Egypt recorded 27.1%, and lastly, UAE recorded 20.9%. Ultimately, we find that the average youth voter turnout across the region is 46.5%, lower than the national average of 53.6%, showing that youth are less likely to cast ballots, mostly for the barriers illustrated earlier, mainly the lack of trust in the electoral processes and their results.
Percentage of Women in Legislative Councils
Next, we outlined the percentages of women in the legislative councils in the MENA region. Looking at North Africa, we find that Algeria currently has the highest percentage of women in their legislative council with 25.8%, followed by 25.4% in Mauritania, and Sudan with 25%. In Tunisia, 22.6% of members of the legislative council are women, compared to 20.5% for Morocco, 15.7% in Egypt, and 15% in Libya. Looking at West Asia, Iraq holds the largest percentage of women in parliament with 25.2%, followed by Turkey with 17.3%, and Jordan with 15.4%, thanks to a quota system. Palestine’s 2006 legislature featured 13.2% women, followed by Syria with 12.4%. Iran and Lebanon have the lowest percentage of women in parliament with 5.9% and 4.7%, respectively. Overall, 16.12% is the average women representation across the MENA region.
Upcoming Legislative Elections
Looking ahead, part of MENAACTION’s vision is empowering young people in the region to not only be civically active but to also see more youth representation in elected offices. With that, we mapped out the confirmed dates of legislative elections across the region, as seen in the figure below. In October later this year, 2020, Kuwait will hold its legislative elections for the National Assembly. Then, in November, all of Jordan, Egypt, and Libya are scheduled to hold their legislative elections for their respective House of Representatives. In 2021, Qatar will hold its legislative elections in June for its Shura Council, as Morocco will hold its elections in November for the House of Representatives. In 2022, Algeria (National People’s Assembly), Iraq (Council of Representatives), and Lebanon (National Assembly) are set to hold their legislative elections in May, Turkey will hold its legislative elections in June for its Grand National Assembly, and Bahrain is scheduled to hold its elections in November for its Council of Representatives. In 2023, Mauritania will hold its elections in September for its National Assembly, followed by Oman (Shura Council) and UAE (Federal National Council) in October later that year. Finally, in 2024, Iran will hold its Parliamentary elections in February, Syria will hold its elections for the People’s National Assembly in July, and Tunisia will hold its elections for the Assembly of People’s Representatives in October 2024.
Forced Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa Region
A Research Report
In our previous report, we discussed migration trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with an emphasis on inward and outward migration. In this report, we delve into a far more pressing issue facing the region today; forced displacement. In fact, the MENA region produces 32.5 million displaced persons, divided between 16.5 million IDPs and 15.2 million refugees under the mandate of UNHCR and UNRWA, in addition to other categories of displaced persons. Forced displacement includes a number of categories such as refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and stateless persons, among others. This issue is not new in the region, with protracted displacement (meaning displacement for three consecutive years) being a common issue. Today, the region is home to some of the most pressing and protracted displacement issues in the world, affecting Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, and others.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is “Someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. They a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.” Furthermore, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center at the UNHCR, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are “Persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border.”
Countries in the MENA region do host a large number of refugees and displaced persons. More specifically, they host about 25.6 million displaced persons in total. Despite this large number, MENA countries remain somewhat unable to fulfill the even-more pressing supply of displaced person in the region, which is currently at 32.6 million refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers, and stateless persons, who are displaced due to wars, conflicts, and disasters. Meaning, MENA states continue to struggle in terms of providing services along with the economic pressure accompanying hosting displaced persons. Furthermore, despite their tremendous capacities, the Gulf countries with the exception of Yemen, only host 0.7% of all displaced person in the region, with a large number of this percentage is in fact, stateless persons. A stateless person is defined, according to UNHCR, as a “person who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law.”
Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and IDPs by Country of Origin
West Asia Region
Home to the region’s most protracted conflicts, the West Asia subregion currently has produced approximately 25 million persons in displacement. Syria, alone, has produced 13.2 million persons currently in displacement, divided between 6.6 million refugees, 118,435 asylum seekers, and 6.5 million IDPs, 29% of those IDPs have been displaced in 2019 alone. Palestine came second with 7.45 million persons currently in forced migration from Palestine. Of those 7.45 million, 7.2 million are refugees currently under direct UNRWA mandate, 11,523 asylum seekers, and 243,000 IDPs. It is also worth noting that more Palestinian houses were demolished in East Jerusalem in 2019 than in any of the past 15 years. Iraq ranked third highest, as it produced 2.3 million persons currently in forced migration, divided between 344,460 refugees, 302,721 asylum seekers, and 1.6 million IDPs, 6.5% of whom were displaced in 2019.
Turkey currently has produced approximately 1.3 million persons in forced migration, whereby 83,271 are refugees, 46,934 asylum seekers, and 1.1 million IDPs. Then, Iran produced 736,168 persons currently in forced migration, divided between 129,676 refugees, 86,087 asylum seekers, and 520,000 IDPs, the majority of whom are disaster induced. Furthermore, Lebanon produced 26,055 persons currently in forced migration, whereby 5,801 are refugees, 8,024 are asylum seekers, and 7,200 are IDPs, 60% of whom were displaced in 2019 alone. Jordan came last with the least number of persons in forced migration, 9,095 persons currently in displacement coming from Jordan, whereby 2,384 are refugees, 4,711 are asylum seekers, and 46 are disaster induced IDPs.
West Asia has witnessed a number of pressing conflicts, including the 9-year-long ongoing war in Syria, the occupation in Palestine, the various armed conflicts in Iraq, and the migration of Afghanis fleeing armed conflict into Iran.
North Africa Region
North Africa subregion currently has produced approximately 3.9 million persons currently in forced migration, with Sudan, alone is the origin country for 82% of those currently in forced migration. As such, there are currently 3.2 million Sudanese in forced migration, divided between 734,947 refugees, 71,959 asylum seekers, and 2.4 million IDPs, 15% of those have been displaced in 2019 alone. Libya has produced 473,050 persons currently in forced migration, whereby16,033 are refugees, 5,975 are asylum seekers, and 451,000 IDPs, 48% of whom have been displaced in 2019 alone. Egypt ranked third highest, producing 109,299 persons currently in forced migration, divided between 27,506 refugees, 16,370 asylum seekers, and 65,004 IDPs. Mauritania currently has produced approximately 52,603 persons in forced migration, whereby 37,423 are refugees, 8,580 are asylum seekers, and 6,600 are IDPs.
Then, Algeria produced 15,284 persons currently in forced migration, divided between 4,514 refugees, 7,463 asylum seekers, 3,200 IDPs, the majority of whom are disaster induced. Furthermore, Morocco produced 13,410 persons currently in forced migration, whereby 4,637 are refugees, 8,313 are asylum seekers, and 200 are IDPs. Lastly, Tunisia has produced 4,778 persons currently in forced migration, whereby 2,068 are refugees, 2,664 are asylum seekers, and 32 are IDPs.
Ultimately, North Africa has witnessed a number of conflicts contributing to forced migration, including the armed conflict in Libya, the partition of Sudan, the Arab Spring movements in the region, and the issues in the countries in the Sahara.
The Gulf Region
With the exception of Yemen, the Gulf region enjoys a rather safe and secure setting, culminating in a low number of displaced persons. In fact, only 11.4% of the total number of displaced persons in the MENA were displaced from the Gulf region, with Yemen, alone producing 99.75% of those currently in forced migration from the Gulf region. Moreover, there are currently 3.7 million Yemenis in forced migration, divided between 36,518 refugees, 34,312 asylum seekers, and 3.6 million IDPs, 11% of whom were displaced in 2019 alone. Saudi Arabia came in second with 3,461 total persons in forced migration from the Kingdom, whereby 1,762 are refugees, 1,413 are asylum seekers, and 260 disaster induced IDPs. Kuwait came in third, producing 2,715 total persons currently in forced migration, divided between 1,300 refugees and 1,405 asylum seekers. Oman currently has produced approximately 2,174 persons in forced migration, whereby only 42 are refugees, 58 are asylum seekers, and 1,100 are IDPs.
Bahrain produced a total of 701 persons currently in forced migration, divided between 557 refugees and 144 asylum seekers. Furthermore, The UAE produced 559 persons currently in forced migration, whereby 155 are refugees, 184 are asylum seekers, and 220 are IDPs. Lastly, Qatar has produced 73 persons currently in forced migration, whereby 36 are refugees and 37 are asylum seekers.
Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and IDPs by Country of Asylum
West Asia Region
In terms of hosting displaced persons, West Asia hosts 74.7% of all displaced persons in the MENA region. Syria, which produced the highest number of displaced persons is also the host country to the largest number of persons. In fact, Syria currently hosts 6.6 million displaced persons within its borders, with a large percentage of which attributed to IDPs in addition to 18,817 refugees, 18,654 asylum seekers, and 160,000 stateless persons. Turkey hosts close to 4 million displaced persons currently, with 3.7 million of whom are refugees couple with 311,719 asylum seekers, in addition to IDPs. Iraq ranked third highest, hosting 3.1 million displaced persons, whereby 283,022 are refugees and 14,035 are asylum seekers in addition to about 1.8 million IDPs. In fourth, Jordan hosts approximately 3 million displaced persons, whereby 2.95 million are refugees and 52,562 are displaced persons. Lebanon, moreover, hosts 1.44 million displaced persons, 1.42 million of whom are refugees coupled with 16,423 asylum seekers. Additionally, Iran hosts 979,476 displaced persons, the vast majority of whom are refugees, mostly from Afghanistan.
North Africa Region
North Africa hosts 14.3% of all displaced persons in the MENA region. Similar to West Asia, Sudan in North Africa hosts the largest number of displaced persons just as it has produced the largest number of displaced persons too. Currently, Sudan hosts about 2.96 million displaced persons, 1.07 million are refugees and 17,622 are asylum seekers. Egypt ranked second highest with 314,937 displaced persons currently hosted in Egypt, 246,749 of whom are refugees coupled with 68,184 asylum seekers. Libya currently hosts about 270,379 displaced persons, 8,794 of whom are refugees and 47,414 are asylum seekers. Moreover, Algeria hosts currently 103,276 displaced persons, the majority of whom are refugees (94,350) coupled with 8,926 asylum seekers. Moreover, Mauritania hosts 84,322 displaced persons, 83,919 are refugees and 1,131 are asylum seekers. Then, Morocco hosts 7,775 displaced persons divided between 5,940 refugees and 1,835 asylum seekers. Finally, Tunisia came in last with 1,330 displaced persons hosted within its borders, 1,066 of whom are refugees and 256 are asylum seekers.
The Gulf Region
The Gulf region hosts 10.6% of the total number of displaced persons in the MENA region. Discounting Yemen, the six other states only host 0.7% of the total displaced persons in the region despite their financial capabilities to host more. Yemen hosts 2.5 million displaced persons divided between 264,369 refugees and 8,814 asylum seekers in addition to a large number of IDPs. Kuwait hosts 93,670 displaced persons, 673 are refugees, 981 are asylum seekers, and 92,000 are stateless persons. Saudi Arabia hosts 72,436 displaced persons, 266 of whom are refugees and 2,170 are asylum seekers in addition to 70,000 stateless persons. Further, UAE hosts 7,782 total displaced persons divided between 1,184 refugees and 6,506 asylum seekers. Qatar hosts 1,482 displaced persons whereby only 190 are refugees and 92 are asylum seekers in addition to 1,200 stateless persons. Oman hosts 564 displaced persons divided between 308 refugees and 256 asylum seekers. Finally, Bahrain hosts 319 displaced persons, 263 of whom are refugees and 56 are asylum seekers. It is worth mentioning that GCC countries, including Qatar, have relaxed the rules for existing expats who do not have the means of renewing travel documents / passports to prevent them from further displacement.
Conclusion: Broad Trends
In analyzing raw UNHCR, UNRWA, and IDMC data, we find that forced displacement in the MENA region is more or less localized per sub-region. Meaning, most displaced persons either remain within the borders of their countries or flee to the most neighboring states. West Asia is the sub-region where the vast majority of forced displacement occurs and hosted. In fact, we find that the region produces 76.7% of all displacement in the region and also hosts and welcomes 74.7% of all displacement in the region. North Africa produces 11.9% and hosts 14.6% of all displaced persons in the MENA region while the gulf region produces 11.4% and hosts 10.7% of all displaced persons in the region. Furthermore, Yemen is the country where the majority of displacement occurs in the gulf region. Without Yemen, the remaining 6 states in the sub-region produce only 0.03% of displaced persons and welcome only 0.7%. Such an analysis shows a disproportionate action between the individual states when factoring their overall economic wellbeing, as states such as Jordan and Lebanon host far more displaced persons than their Gulf counterparts. At the same time, it is worth noting that many GCC states do provide sizeable financial aid to those hosting displaced person to further enable them to provide better services.
Migration Trends in the Middle East and North Africa Region
A Research Report
Migration encompasses a variety of different types of. It includes economic migrants, internal displacement, asylum seeking, refugees, and smuggled and trafficked persons. Migrants can also be grouped in terms of direction/destination, whereby migrating within one’s countries is internal migration and migrating out of one’s country is external migration, or emigration.
In this brief report, MENAACTION studied migration trends in the Middle East and North Africa(MENA), whereby we analyzed the “Migration Stock Database” produced by United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Population Division, which monitors global population trends periodically. For that, we studied inward migration (immigration) and outward migration (emigration) for 21 states in the MENA region.
According to the Dictionary of Human Geography, emigration is a form of migration that occurs when a person leaves a place. Emigration is also a basic human right under Article 12 of the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Immigration, on the other hand, is entering a new place and is considered one of the most significant causes of social change in the world (Clark, 1986; Sassen, 1996).
Looking at the overall trend in the MENA region, we find that there are more immigrants than there are emigrants. In fact, there is a total of 34.5m emigrants incoming into the 21 countries in the region, and there is a total of 48.7m immigrants, leaving their individual countries in the region.
North Africa Region
Looking more specifically at the states in North Africa, we find that Sudan has seen the most incoming immigrants with over 1.2m immigrants, 63% of whom immigrated from South Sudan. Secondly, Libya has about 818,216 immigrants, with 37% of whom came from Palestine. Egypt has about 504,053 total immigrants, 27% of whom immigrated from Palestine. Moreover, Algeria came in fourth with approximately 249,075 total immigrants, 13% of whom also came from Palestine, a heavily featured state in this report. Mauritania welcomed about 172,967 immigrants with the vast majority immigrated from Mali (63%). As for Morocco, 103,958 immigrated into the North African state, with 36% came from France. Tunisia was the country that welcomed the least immigrants, with 57,455 in total, 18% of whom came from Algeria.
For youth specifically, we find that 43% of immigrants into Egypt are youth, followed by 38% incoming into Mauritania, 37% for Libya, 33% for Morocco, 32% into Algeria, 30% into Tunisia, and 26% incoming into Sudan.
Moreover, for emigration, we find that the numbers are much higher than they are for immigration, as residents of the region are leaving more. Egypt produced the most emigrants with 3.5m, 27% of whom emigrated to Saudi Arabia, a place where many Egyptians go to for work opportunities. Secondly, Morocco exported about 3.3m in emigrants, with France being a popular destination. Sudan exported over 2m emigrants, with 28% of whom emigrated to South Sudan. The transfer of population between Sudan and South Sudan is evident in these figures amid the partition. Algeria exported 1.9m in emigrants with a staggering 81% emigrated to France. Similarly, 52% of Tunisia’s 831,634 emigrants left to France, a popular destination among North Africans. As for Libya, 180,611 emigrated outwards with about 20% to Italy, as 36% of Mauritania’s 126,509 left to Senegal.
The Gulf Region
For the Gulf region, immigration is a far more prevalent trend than emigration. Given the attractive economic opportunities present in this region, a large number of economic migrants turn to these states for opportunities, many of whom come from neighboring states as well as from Southeast Asian states, primarily India. With that, Saudi welcomed the highest number of immigrants, not just among the gulf region, but among the entire MENA region with 13.1m immigrants, 19% of whom immigrated from India. The UAE came in second with 8.5m immigrants, 40% from India as well. Kuwait came in third with about 3m immigrants, 37% also came from India. Qatar welcomed 2.29m immigrants, 31% of whom immigrated from India, as Oman’s 2.28m immigrants featured 58% from India. Bahrain welcomed 741,161 immigrants, 40% of whom immigrated from India too. Yemen came in last with 385,628 immigrants, 73% of whom immigrated from Somalia, migrating from one conflict impacted nation to another.
48% of Oman’s immigrants are youth, followed by 46% incoming into the UAE, 45% for Qatar, 40% for Bahrain, 31% into Yemen, 30% for Kuwait, and Saudi came in last with 29% of its immigrants are youth.
As for emigration, with the exception of 1.2m Yemeni emigrants (60% of whom emigrated to Saudi), this region features moderate numbers of outward migration. Saudi Arabia exported 303,904 emigrants, with 31% leaving to the United States, a popular destination for education and work opportunities. For Kuwait, 205,411 migrated out of the nation, 32% of whom went to the UAE, which in turn exported 162,747 emigrants, 16% of whom went to Kuwait. Bahrain produced 60,163 emigrants, 51% of whom went to Bangladesh. Qatar exported about 26,312 emigrants, 38% of whom went to Palestine, a similar destination to which 41% of Oman’s 22,461 emigrants left.
West Asia Region
For West Asia, a region where conflicts are more prevalent, we find large numbers of migration. Looking at incoming migration, immigration, Turkey welcomed the highest number of immigrants with 5.8m, 64% immigrated into Turkey from Syria. Jordan came in second with 3.3m immigrants, 63% of whom migrated from neighboring state Palestine. Iran came in third with 2.6m immigrants, with a staggering 86% of whom coming from war torn Afghanistan. Lebanon welcomed 1.8m immigrants, 62% of whom migrated from Syria, which in turn welcomed 867,848 immigrants, 69% of whom came from Palestine. Iraq welcomed 368,062 immigrants, 70% of whom also came from Syria. Palestine ranked last with 253,735, 25% of whom came from Israel.
Youth immigration is also a featured trend in this region. For that, Palestine immigrants featured 48% youth, followed by 42% into Iraq, 41% into Iran, 40% into Turkey, 38% into Syria, 37% into Lebanon, and 29% into Jordan.
As for emigration, Syria’s ongoing civil war resulted in 8.2m emigrants, 45% of whom emigrated into Turkey. Palestine came in second with 3.8m emigrants, 55% of whom migrated to Jordan. Turkey came in third with 3.4m emigrants, 44% of whom moved to neighboring Germany. Additionally, there are also about 2m immigrants from Iraq, 11% of whom migrated to the United States. Similarly, of Iran’s 1.3m immigrants, 31% migrated to the United States. As for Lebanon, 844,503 immigrated outwards, with 18% of whom moved to Saudi Arabia, a popular destination for Jordanians, as 30% of the nation’s 784,428 immigrants moved to their southern neighbors.