The Arab region is home to the youngest population in the world, with over 100 million youth between the ages of 15 and 29 - these young men and women have the potential to drive significant change and promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The youth in the region has proven to be educated and connected to global knowledge, indicating that it is not the lack of skills, but rather of available opportunities, that prevents them from becoming change-makers in their communities.
In order to address these issues, UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States launched The Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) in 2015 to build the region's most dynamic network working on youth, innovation and sustainable development. YLP has so far run five successful cycles and, as of end of 2019, has worked with over 20,000 youth participants and supported 5,000+ projects. YLP participants have launched and established successful small businesses, won municipality elections, received recognition and awards for their innovative solutions, and presented their ideas at renowned universities and global platforms.
"YLP offered me the chance to enhance my skills as a change maker, gain maturity and become more aware of the global challenges for 2030. Its network allowed me to have a comprehensive view of challenges facing the Arab States and gave me the ability to take action on them."
The programme has facilitated an exchange between YLP participants and Hult International Business School for the “Business and Social Innovation” course, selected top change-makers to take part in the ECOSOC Youth Forum and share their projects and vision for achieving the SDGs. Additional partners have included SIDA, UNITAR, Union for the Mediterranean, UN Women, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Arab Women Organization, and the Middle East Broadcasting Center. The programme is growing rapidly from year to year, gradually expanding its offer and reaching more and more young people from across the region.
YLP in a nutshell
YLP's mission is to invest in young women and men across the Arab region to unleash their potential to become social innovators, leaders, thinkers and a powerful force for change in their communities, countries and the region at large. YLP equips youth with tools to develop their own unique and innovative solutions to address real-life challenges and further the 2030 Agenda, and encourages participants to become changemakers, capable of developing their ideas from plans to practice.
Programme's goals are achieved through the three main pillars: Sustainable Development Goals, Social Innovation and Gender Equality.
The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the region is vital for the young people to become effective leaders and implement solutions that benefit their communities.
The region struggles with an ongoing exclusion of young women and restricting their capabilities and opportunities. YLP strives to offer women equal opportunities to grow and develop their ideas and solutions.
Finally, social innovation is at heart of the YLP programme - among many other tools YLP utilises the Design Thinking methodology, which offers a human-centred approach, and provides valuable tools for social innovation and tackling the complex development challenges in the region.
YLP for youth
YLP supports young men and women across the Arab region through several phases of their journey as a YLP participant and alumni.
Firstly, YLP offers extensive capacity-building such as trainings, workshop, innovation camps, hackathons and other activities at national level. Young men and women are supported in developing their ideas and social initiatives from planning to practice using a holistic approach to social innovation. Some of the youth will also participate in regional YLP activities, such as Regional Forums and workshops.
"YLP has propelled my project forward in terms of realizing that it is possible. I have seen other youth in similar situations and seeing this has given me confidence to accomplish my own goals"
Secondly, YLP provides youth a great spectrum of opportunities beyond national and regional levels. Our alumni have travelled to UNLEASH innovation summit in China, Empower conference in Doha, ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York, took part in and won international competitions, became politically active in their communities and visited other countries in the region representing UNDP and YLP.
Thirdly, YLP alumni form the family of YLP. The youth participants are part of every phase of the program, with their responsibilities increasing from year to year with alumni serving as trainers, mentors and implementers in later cycles. This approach has helped not only establish a cadre of innovative and engaged youth, but youth who are actively taking part in supporting the development of their incoming peers.
"Changing the world begins with a small group of thoughtful, committed people who work of raising awareness and advocating for rights."
YLP for partners
YLP has worked with over 80 youth-serving organizations across 18 Arab countries. We help partner organizations to expand their knowledge to better support youth-led initiatives and change-makers at the national level, especially with respect to innovative leadership, civic and political participation and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals.
The programme also facilitates exchange of expertise and good practice between partner organizations to ensure peer to peer learning and continuous improvement of YLP’s offer to the young people. To enhance the collective knowledge and build the capacity of its participants, partner youth-serving organizations will have access to newly developed online materials, toolkits and curriculum to support planning and implementation of YLP on the national level.
"YLP is in every way a catalyst not only for our participants and partners but also for UNDP. Started four years ago, YLP has already made its mark on the region, drawing in top talent and empowering them to change their communities and their futures. We know that when taken to new heights, this programme has the potential to transform the way youth can contribute to peace and stability in their communities and around the globe"