By PAUL SCHEMM (AP) – Jun 27, 2010
CAIRO — A U.N. report released Sunday cites political repression as one of the main forces preventing Egyptian youths, who make up a quarter of the population, from participating in the country's development.
The Egypt Human Development report came out during a wave of demonstrations over the alleged beating death by police of a 28-year-old man in the city of Alexandria. Many of the demonstrations have been violently dispersed by security forces.
The annual report, prepared by the U.N. Development Program, focused this year on the plight of Egyptians aged 18 to 29 and their disenfranchisement in the country amid widespread unemployment and political apathy.
"Egypt's youth can be a formidable force for development if conditions are put in place for an inclusive society where all young Egyptians feel valued and are afforded opportunities," the report said.
The authors singled out government corruption, nepotism, electoral fraud and the long-running state of emergency for discouraging young people from engaging in politics and society. They also criticized restrictions on freedom of expression and demonstrations and interference in political activities of university students.
The report presentation described a "culture of fear" among youth and recommended police stop intimidation that prevents citizens from expressing opinions or engaging in political activity.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, speaking at the launch of the report, did not address the criticism over political restrictions and defended the government's attitude toward youth by outlining the existing policies to tackle unemployment and education failures as well as a lack of housing.
"We are all aware that the young confront many challenges and difficulties," he said. "We are on the right course for the development of youth."
The report said 90 percent of Egypt's unemployed are under the age of 30. Overall, Egyptian unemployment has hovered around 9 percent in past years, but among those aged 20-25 it has been as high as 40 percent, according to official figures.
Upon entering adulthood, many young people enter a period of waiting for a job, a house or just to marry because of lack of opportunities.
"There remains an unfavorable environment for youth as they transition to adulthood," said the report, noting that even after marriage, a third of young people still have to live with their parents.
Egypt is currently experiencing a "demographic bulge" from a baby boom 30 years ago resulting in a comparatively large number of young adults.
The report's lead author, economist Heba Handoussa, however, warned that "Egypt is at a crossroads," and either it taps the energies of its youth or risks turning them into a burden for society.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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