UNF students come up with ideas for change in North Africa
Since the Arab Spring of 2011, hopes for democracy in North Africa have remained frozen. Yet, while most Floridians don’t realize it, the United States has broad interests in North Africa, from keeping terrorists at bay to increasing commerce to stemming the wave of refugees overwhelming our allies in the region and in Europe. In fact, tens of thousands of area immigrants now live in Florida. It is time for our government to give higher priority to resolving the factors of instability in this region.
Young people may have hoped for a thaw from the authoritarian regime, but the rulers are stealing their future. As members of Generation Z, we have a responsibility to help our fellow young people achieve peace and prosperity. It is now the responsibility of our generation to meet these challenges. Economic stagnation, corruption and chaos – especially in Libya – are causing our generation in this region to flee in search of a better life.
Our UNF political science class studied the crisis and in April traveled to the nation’s capital to offer policy recommendations through which the United States can lead change in the region, tackling the economic drivers, investments and targeting young people.
First, the Biden administration must give greater priority to the North Africa region, including hosting a summit to promote trade and investment to advance development and counter Russian influence. and China. The United States and the European Union must invest more in the region to counter the vast Chinese investments, as well as Russian influence. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai are expected to lead a delegation to the region to develop both regional and continental development in tandem with business investment opportunities in the region.
The US and EU should also work to reinvigorate these agreements, reduce trade barriers and increase trade with the US and EU, perhaps including a free trade area. Euro-Mediterranean, as recommended by Carnegie. This could create a $360 billion market of nearly 200 million consumers, dramatically increasing gross domestic product and purchasing power parity to attract foreign investment and drive reform.
Given the crisis in Ukraine, the West should pressure the region to join global sanctions against Russia, including buying its weapons, and counter its courtship of the region, such as the first summit of Russia held in 2019 in Sochi, through enhanced diplomacy. Russia is the biggest arms supplier to Algeria, has a basic agreement with Egypt and has its irregular forces operating in Libya. NATO and the US Africa Command should offer to replace Russian military equipment and training, especially in Algeria and Libya.
Given the huge amount of US aid to Egypt, we should urge Egypt to end its basic agreement with Russia.
A key opportunity is for the US and EU to shift their phosphate imports from Russia to Tunisia, complementing the 25% of its phosphate sources that come from Florida. Tunisia is currently seeking to double its phosphate production and exports by 2024. The United States and the EU are expected to establish an agreement to import Tunisian phosphate, subject to marked progress toward democracy, including upcoming elections. have been postponed since December 2021.
Second, the United States must address the root causes of the migration crisis. Millions of people are fleeing the chaos in North Africa, overwhelming the region while straining and destabilizing Europe. While the above efforts help address the “push” factors, we need to do more to care for displaced people now. The United States should support a new UN appeal to raise sufficient resources to close the gaps in health, education, and jobs. The delegation from the Department of Commerce and the USTR could also explain how to help migrants to work in new companies.
None of these challenges will be solved without meeting the needs of our fellow Gen Z youth. The United States must push for the expansion of youth education, including more educational and cultural exchanges in the United such as internships and study abroad programs like the Youth Exchange and Study Program, USAID’s YouthPower Program, and the United Nations Decent Jobs for Youth Initiative.
Russia and China are well known for weaponizing the popular new term “fake news” to claim that any kind of dissident information is false and liable to prosecution. The United States and the international community should promote a media literacy campaign from grade one to equip young people to recognize and challenge misinformation. The International Research & Exchanges Board’s Learning to Discern program, which has been successful in Ukraine, should be replicated across North Africa.
Finally, the United States must promote gender equality to include addressing violence against women and the abuse of girls. The United States should fund early childhood development programs to help address the skills gap for employment, as well as help advance jobs for women. Programs like Teachers Without Borders should be expanded. Working at the local level is the first step to securing funding for early childhood development programs.
To promote these efforts, especially those targeting young people, the Biden administration should launch an aggressive social media campaign to galvanize action, using social media stars such as Algerian singer Soolking, as well as building on those popular among Arab youth, such as #she_is_strong and #jasmine_for_all.
These steps will help keep the Florida sun shining on the Arabian winter and help warm our generation’s future.
UNF students traveled to Washington, DC, in April and presented their recommendations to Defense and State Department officials; the National Security Council; Representative John Rutherford; the staff of Senator Chris Coons; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Ambassador David Satterfield; American Institute of Peace; the Council on Foreign Relations; the Middle East Institute; the American First Policy Institute; the World Food Programme; and the Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia, as well as UNF alumni currently working in DC
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