Societies in movement, Youth across the world
Essaouira,21,22 and 23 June 2013
If over the past few years the Mediterranean socio-political space has drawn the attention of the world this is largely dueto the uprising of youth, on both sides of the pond engaged in social and political protest. To the South, the main point was to do away with stubborn political stagnation andtryto redraft the social contract. To the North, the protest was the expression of the deep-seated unease of the young who no longer accepted having its future compromised by bankrupt public policies in face of the effects brought on by chronic crisis. But,whatever the heterogeneity of the situation of the young to the North or South, one has to admit that approaching adulthood with all what that implies with regard to social and professional autonomy, has everywhere become perilous and the incubator of huge social risks.
To the South of the Mediterranean, the explosion of youth onto the political scene is firstly the result of a demographic transition marking across the entire region the beginnings of a socio-historical moment characterized by the fall in the fertility rate and unstoppable rise of cohorts of young people (70% of the population is under the age of thirty) before the beginnings of the ageing process of the population toward 2030. Far from being limited to the drop in the birth rate, the effects of the demographic transition are causing a deep-seated socio-cultural change due to the weakening of the patriarchal society, the transformation of intergenerational and gender relationships and emergence of the individual. Elsewhere the demographic transition went hand in hand, especially to the South of the Mediterranean with other transitions of equal importance, i.e. education in connection with rapid mass schoolingand ever-growing urbanization.From the conjunction of these three social changes was born the new and indispensable socio-political actorrepresented from now on by educated and urbanized youth sustainably rooted in digital culture.
In just one generation,the strong aspirations engendered in this transitional context collapsed under the effect of the material and symbolic frustrations suffered first and foremost by the young (inadequate training, unemployment, feeling of ill at ease, precariousness and the difficulties in achieving socio-economic autonomy). At the turn of the century, everywhere to the South of the Mediterranean, the situation has given rise to deep generational tensions propitious to the blossoming of a civil society unresponsive to old forms of authority.
In societies to the North of the Mediterranean, one observes a gripping paradox marked by « youthism » turned into an absolute standard governing all areas of social life (economy, art, culture, etc.) and by an increasing social declassification of wide swathes of the youthful population. Victims of multiple socio-economic changes caused by the policies applied to the management of the crisis, the young find it difficult to exist socially and in the acquisition of autonomy in societies geared to celebration of the individual.
For Euro-Mediterranean youth emanating from immigration, the phenomenon of social declassification is compounded insofar as the factors of exclusion (deficiencies in terms of education and training, housing, parental income, etc.) have become greater owing to the painful experience of discrimination.This has led to the current situation of young people who, like all other youths, want to gain access to conditions of autonomy, the key to passage to adulthood (education, training, socio-professional integration), to shout its ire against discrimination and claims its right to recognition via the construction of dissident identities (overemphasis on cultural and religious aspects).
For a long time, the attention paid by the public authorities to the « young » hovered between, sectoral policies (socio-professional, sports and recreational focus) of which education, as is required by mass instruction, absorbed the key share of budgetary resources; and preventive or security- oriented approach treating young generations as a problem rather than a resource or pool of wealth.The pivotal role played by young people to the South of the Mediterranean in the « Arab Spring » uprisings, as well as the wave of protests of the « outrage » in Northern countries placed the young at the heart of the strategic stakes in most countries around the Mediterranean. Henceforth these stakes are to be understood in terms of the development of a high quality educational system, economic integration, political participation and the promotion of a democratic society open and respectful of human rights.
The Essaouira Forum which will see the participation of sociologists, historians, political analysts and economists as well as economic and socio-political actors, will attempt to open a pluralistic debate capable of tackling the major issues dealing with Mediterranean youth, societies, States, researchers and media. It will have the dual aim of questioning the methods of construction of public policies with regard to the young and the formulation of a multidisciplinary approach, and the outlook for coherent and democratic political actions geared to tackling the stakes for the future.