By Salma Abdullah
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) held the “Empowering Youth – Building a Social Democratic Future Conference” on Saturday to discuss the common challenges faced by youth in Egypt and internationally in the political arena.
“Politics isn’t a priority for Arab youth,” said Amir Al-Raqiq, a member of the Tunisian Ettakatol Party. He mentioned that the difficult economic situation and the high rate of unemployment make it harder for Arab youth to be politically active.
Al- Raqiq said that his party is currently forming an Arab Socialist Youth union in parallel to the International Socialist Foundation in an attempt to organize Arab youth within a social democratic context.
Nejad Nejadat, from Jordan, said that the main problem lies in the way Arabs were brought up, and “how our educational curricula lack any political orientation to enlighten them.”
Mohamed Bashir, a member of the Palestinian National Initiative, said that youth are always given tasks which either challenge their abilities, or ones that dishearten them, resulting in many who abandon politics.
“Even youth who are members of political parties aren’t involved in the decision-making process,” he said. “Their role is limited to the implementation phase.”
One member of the audience said that successive disappointments faced by youth in the political arena were the reason why they have decided to participate only in the revolutionary movements, and abandon the political ones.
“The leadership is afraid to lose their positions to youth,” said Ahmed El-Anany, a member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. He added that the problem didn’t lie only in political illiteracy, but in fear as well, giving an example of the university student union’s elections in Egypt; the participation percentage rose from 1% in 2010 to 65% in 2013 after the revolution.
Al-Anany announced that the Egyptian Social Democratic Party is currently working on “The Young Parliament” initiative, which targets youth over 25 years old, and encourages them to compete in the next parliamentary elections.
“I think that the problem lies in both the leadership and youth,” said Ayman Abu El-Ela, former parliament member. He said that youth should take the initiative and impose themselves on the political stage and the leadership needs to be more welcoming and supportive of them.
Cecilie Bonderup, a member of the Danish Social Democratic Youth said that the best way to attract youth to politics is to “make it about them” and explain how it would affect their everyday life. She added that if the youth were appreciated and understood that people wanted to listen to them, they would eventually get attracted to politics.