This change engenders a widespread sense of dislocation and disorientation. A third factor is ideology, which has been used by extremist groups and organisations to seduce young people through “new visions of imagined futures based on imagined pasts,” often using religious networks and ideas. A fourth factor is organisational. Extremist networks have grown and have increased their ability to attract and recruit young people for activities that are fraught with grave risks and violence.
The report points out that the overwhelming majority of young people in the Arab region have no inclination to become radicalised or to participate in extremist or violent activities. The vast majority of young people reject violence and regard extremist groups as terrorists.
Several Arab countries are among the most militarised in the world and are characterised by huge military outlays. The five biggest global importers of arms in the world during 2009-2013 were India, China, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The arms imports of UAE and Saudi Arabia account for 32 per cent of the global total. When faced with military threats, Arab countries almost invariably call on foreign troops for protection.
Violent conflicts and wars take a heavy toll of human lives and lead to massive displacement of population. The Arab region, home to only 5 per cent of the world’s population, accounts for 47 per cent of its internally displaced people and 58 per cent of its refugees. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, the largest internal displacements in 2013 related to conflict and violence were in Syria (6.5 million), Yemen (2.5 million), Sudan (2.4 million), Iraq (2.1 million) and Somalia (1.1 million). In June 2014, over 500,000 were displaced in Iraq. By July 2016 those displaced by the ongoing violence and war in Syria rose to 11.6 million.
More than five years after the uprising began in Syria, the human toll has reached over 250,000 dead and more than one million wounded. By 2014, 24 per cent of Syria’s 97 public hospitals were severely damaged and rendered dysfunctional and another 35 per cent were partially damaged. Life expectancy in the country declined by 27 per cent, from 75 years in 2010 to 55.7 years by the end of 2014.
Somalia has been in the grip of large-scale violence and civil strife for many years. Since 1991 between 450,000 and 1.5 million Somalis have died either as a direct result of armed clashes or due to famine caused or exacerbated by the conflict. Millions have been injured and have suffered disabilities. As of January 2014, 1.1 million Somalis have been internally displaced and many more have fled to Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen. Libya continues to be ravaged by political divisions, tribal conflicts and rising insecurity. As of June 2015, it is estimated that 2 million people, almost one-third of Libya’s population, have been affected by the conflict. Almost 550,000 people have been internally displaced and an estimated 1.9 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance. The country’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse.
Internal displacements and forced migrations due to violent conflicts and war have particularly disastrous consequences for children. Children under 18 years constituted nearly 50 per cent of the global refugee population in 2013. Since the beginning of the war in Syria, 90 per cent of refugee children and youth aged 6-17 are out of school.