American University of Beirut

Youth in the Arab World



    With a multidisciplinary foundation of AUB faculty members and regional affiliates, the Program on Youth in the Arab World acts as a meeting point, catalyst and central repository for Arab-international research and policy on Arab youth. By working regularly with researchers, public policy officials, and relevant institutions in the private sector, civil society, and the international community, we aim to:

    Maintain a comprehensive database of all research projects and researchers, as well as civil society organizations and other active groups that offer critical insights into young people’s conditions, attitudes and behaviors;
    Identify the most urgent research gaps and undertake new research, data collection and publishing;
    Bring together researchers from all sectors to analyze research findings and identify key experiences and lessons learned, through conferences, lectures and workshops;
    Provide a regular mechanism for researchers, young people, civil society organizations, international organizations and public policy officials to meet and exchange ideas on pressing challenges, new opportunities, and most relevant policy solutions.

    ​​Progr​am Approach

    We recognize “youth” as a transition from childhood to adulthood that can be sudden and abrupt, or protracted and unpredictable, depending on the social, economic and cultural context. We define youth demographically as a cohort between the ages of 15 and 29. For these reasons, we are primarily interested in understanding:
    How the transition from childhood to adulthood is experienced and constructed in non-Western contexts, with a particular focus on youth within the family context;
    How youth are defined and represented from above, by both adults and powerful institutions alike, and from below, by young people themselves;
    Why and how youth participate in the current political and social transformations across the Arab World;
    The different frameworks and approaches used in the study of youth well-being in the Arab world.
    We encourage new research, analysis and writing on how “youth” create alternative spaces and forms of participation, mobilization and autonomy. We want to know what identities and values youth endorse and how they express them through social media, popular culture, political protest, migration, entrepreneurship, religion, ethnicity, conflict and other means.


    Research Highlig​​​hts

    A Generation on the Move: Insights into the Conditions, Aspirations and Activism of Arab Youth
    Issam Fares Institute, AUB, with the support of UNICEF MENARO
    Understanding the state of mind of the activist young men and women throughout the region provides a window into the challenges Arab societies are facing today, and into the recent revolts that are driving the national social and political transformations in the Arab world. With the aim to identify and better understand key elements of young Arabs' perspectives on themselves and their place in society, in 2009 the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut initiated a two-year partnership to produce an updated and forward looking situation analysis on youth in the Middle East and Northern Africa region with the support of the UNICEF Middle East & North Africa Regional Office.

    The report chapters cover the following areas: Youth Identities and Values, Youth Civic and Political Participation, Arab Youth and Media Expression, Youth Autonomy in the Arab Family, Young Women and Girls, Arab Youth Sexuality, Migration of Arab Youth, Youth in Situations of Violence and Armed Conflict, National Youth Policies in MENA.

    The report has a foundation of more than 30 background papers and case studies looking into: Suburban neighborhoods and social marginalization in Algera. Adolescent girls: decision-making, perceptions and values; Hip hop and self-expression in Lebanon, The Virtual Voice: Arab Youth’s Activism through Facebook; Migration: attitudes of Egyptian youth towards migration to Europe, Mapping Youth Community Engagement In the Region, Development and Expression of Sexuality; Identities and Values, Marriage, Political Participation, Policies and Laws; Armed Conflict and Violence, The New Media Revolution, Dubbed Soap Operas and Iraqi Youth.

    Current Research 

    Restoring Dignity: 
    The raison d’être of the youth movements in the Arab citizen revolt? (2011). Is a study conducted by Dr. Rima Afifi and Dr. Ziyad Mahfoud, initially as part of the working group on youth and dignity at the Abu Dhabi Gallup Forum-2011 (Abu Dhabi). The study looks at dignity as a key concept to understanding the attitudes and actions of young people in the Arab world. The study used Gallup data to validate an adapted conceptual framework on youth and dignity. The framework posits that personal and societal factors interact to provide feedback to individuals resulting in validation or invalidation of their sense of dignity and leading in the latter case to consequences such as feelings of a lack of self-worth, anger, depression, powerlessness, hopelessness. Such feelings lead to coping mechanisms such as migration, or actions such as rebellion.

    The Subjective Well-being of Youth through Creative Writing:
    This comparative qualitative study is conducted by Dr. Roseanne Khalaf and targets university students from three Arab countries. The researcher explores the views of youth through creative writing workshops and discussions.

    Development and Expression of Sexuality in the Arab Region:
    An online survey covering various questions on the sexual knowledge, attitudes and practices of young Arabs, and explores the effect of the internet and cyberspace on their sexual development.

    Multi-disciplinary Research on Youth Well-being:
    The recently established steering committee of AUB Youth Working Group working group conceptualized a framework for the well-being of youth in the Arab world following an ecological and holistic approach that acknowledges the multidimensionality of well-being and goes beyond the dominant medical model. The framework is intended to provide a comprehensive road map to factors that impact youth well-being and to guide cross-sectoral research. The steering committee is currently designing and developing a pilot community action research project to further revise and test this framework.

    Youth and the Family:
    A comprehensive literature review of available scholarly and technical knowledge related to family in the Arab world. The review will include both academic and non-academic resources in three languages: English, French and Arabic. Following the review of existing resources, a preliminary analysis will be conducted to identify key knowledge gaps and areas that are well-documented.

    The AUB Youth ​Research Working Group

    The AUB Youth Research Working Group is jointly launched by the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and the Issam Fares Institute (IFI). The working group brings together AUB faculty working on issues related to youth from various departments and disciplines. The steering committee, chaired by Rima Afifi, includes faculty members from Public Health, Media, Psychology, Business, Mental Health, Urban Planning and Policy, Nursing and Engineering. 

    The AUB Youth Research Working Group aims at researching, synthesizing, and disseminating quality research on youth well-being in the Arab world, as well as bringing practical, relevant, and situated recommendations to the policy-making process across all sectors dealing with youth.

    Steering Committee Members (2012-2013)

    • Rima Afifi (Chair) – (Faculty of Health Sciences) 
    • Jad Melki - (Social and Behavioral Sciences Department) 
    • Charles Harb - (Social and Behavioral Sciences Department) 
    • Fady T. Maalouf - (Department of Psychiatry-AUBMC) 
    • Dima Jamali -- (Olayan Business School) 
    • Lilian Ghandour - (Epidemiology and Population Health Department) 
    • Mona Harb  - (Department of Architecture and Design) 
    • Mariette Awad- (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering)
    • Mary Arevian - (School of Nursing)


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