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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Study tour from North Caucasus explores Syria’s new approach to youth

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Krzysiek
North Caucasus delegates visit Syria to study the country’s achievements in fostering youth development.

By Pawel Krzysiek

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 29 October, 2010 – At first glance, Syria and the North Caucasus would seem to have little in common. But beyond the different cultures, people and histories, interest in youth development is increasing and making a significant impact in both places.

“Like in Syria, the overall approach to youth in my country is changing,” said Magomed Ozdoev, the Youth Committee leader in the Russian Republic of Ingushetia.” The government has come to realize that no achievements will be sustainable without placing adolescents and young people at the centre of development.”

Support for adolescents
Mr. Ozdoev came to Syria for a week-long study tour of the country’s successful interventions with adolescents and youth. Along with his North Caucasus colleagues – a collective group of policymakers and representatives of youth institutions from Tajikistan and Russia’s federal republics of Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan – he was introduced to the cross-sectoral work for youth empowerment in the country.

The group visited national youth institutions, adolescent-friendly spaces, health clinics and psycho-social support centres, receiving a comprehensive overview of how Syria provides support to adolescents.

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Krzysiek
The North Caucasus delegation to Syria meets with Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian adolescents.

“There are many things to learn from the Syrian experience,” said Boris Pashtov, Minister of Information and Youth in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. “On the one hand, the institutional foundations, agenda and clear policy objectives; on the other, field interventions targeting specific needs of youth, their parents and the community. I didn’t expect such advanced work.”

The tour was coordinated by UNICEF, whose effective cooperation with the Syrian Government reflects the positive changes in the country’s youth policies and services. 

Improving infrastructure
“I am very much impressed with the degree of cooperation between UNICEF and the Syrian Government at various systemic levels,” said Aida Ailarova, UNICEF’s World Bank-funded Youth Programme Officer in the North Caucasus region. “The coordination mechanism is well developed, and both parties seem to go in the same direction.”

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Krzysiek
On visits to adolescent-friendly spaces, psycho-social support centres and business clinics, the North Caucasus delegates were introduced to cross-sectoral work for youth empowerment in Syria.

Over the last few years, Syria has undergone a substantial political and economic transition. For those lucky enough to benefit from the country’s dynamic economic growth, it appears hopeful. After all, there are many new western-style malls in which to shop, and fancy cars glide up and down the streets of Damascus in a seemingly endless procession. Unfortunately, opportunities for youth are still limited. 

By introducing the concept of adolescent development and participation into the organizational logic of national service providers, however, UNICEF has created a model for adapting the existing youth infrastructure to the country’s new socio-economic conditions.

‘We must catch the moment’
“Building on existing institutions is crucial to ensure the sustainability of development,” Mr. Pashtov emphasized.

© UNICEF Syria/2010/Krzysiek
The North Caucasus delegation learned that cooperation mechanisms between UNICEF and the Syrian Government exist at various systemic levels, from service delivery to policy making.

“After years of working on peace, young people of Tajikistan want to study, participate and get a decent job now. We need to focus on their development as their interest in the country grows every day,” added Mr. Amirov.

Providing additional opportunities for young people is especially important in the North Caucasus region, which over past decades has undergone many of its own socio-economic changes, as well as armed conflicts and recurrent crisis. The North Caucasus delegates in Syria stressed that despite numerous challenges, it’s critical to capitalize on the current momentum in order to ensure a better future for their young people.

“It is a boiling point for youth in our region,” said Mr. Pashtov. “The Syrian example shows that our task is to help youth identify their future. We must catch the moment, not lose it.”



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