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Youth as a New 'Foreign Policy Challenge' in Middle East and North Africa: A Critical Interrogation of European Union and US Youth Policies in Morocco and Tunisia


It is not only since January 2011 and the so-called ‘youth revolutions’ that youth has become a key concept through which Europeans and Americans are viewing the Arab world. Since the 2000s, youth has increasingly entered European Union (EU) foreign policies in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the revised neighbourhood policy has in fact devoted an entire section to youth unemployment. But are EU policies contributing to the inclusion of youth? Based on discourse analysis and a comparative approach with US policies, this article argues that the EU and the United States have framed youth exclusively in relation to their ideal vision of a liberal order in the region as an asset, challenge or threat. This has in turn justified foreign policies which are pushing for a further liberalization of the labour market in these countries and which reproduce gendered images of young Muslim men as terror threats and threats to women, young Muslim women as victims and non-productive. While the Arab uprisings have resisted this discourse and practice of Western actors, they have not succeeded to change them; Western policies remain resilient.