The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar appear in Arab youth’s top-five list of model nations for the first time in nine years. Young Arab men and women now say they would rather live in Qatar than the United Kingdom, while Saudi Arabia ranks joint-fifth with the UK in their list of countries they most want their own to emulate.
For the 12th consecutive year since they were asked to name the countries, they consider ‘model nations’, Arab youth have said the United Arab Emirates is the country they would most like to live in and the one they would most want their own to emulate. The United States and Canada were ranked second and third, respectively, for the third year running.
Significantly, three GCC nations, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, appear in Arab youth’s top-five list of model nations for the first time in nine years. Young Arab men and women now say they would rather live in Qatar than the United Kingdom, while Saudi Arabia ranks joint-fifth with the UK in their list of countries they most want their own to emulate. Nearly one in four Arab youth (24%) named the UAE as the country they would most like to live in, followed by the US (19%), Canada (19%), Qatar (14%) and the United Kingdom (13%). Qatar appears among the top-five model nations for the first time in eight years, reflecting the feel-good factor around the FIFA World Cup 2022.
These findings on model nations make up some of the key insights of the landmark 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, unveiled today by ASDA’A BCW, the Middle East & North Africa’s leading communications consultancy, under the theme ‘Living a New Reality’. The annual survey is the largest study of its kind of the Arab world’s largest demographic, it's over 200 million youth.
Highlighting shifting geopolitical allegiances in the Arab world, the region’s youth also claim Turkey and China as stronger allies of their country than traditional powers such as the United States and Russia. Among non-Arab nations, 82% of Arab youth named Turkey as a ‘strong ally’ or ‘somewhat of an ally of their country’, followed by China (80%), the United Kingdom (79%), Germany (78%) and France (74%). The US ranked seventh, with 72% votes, just below India at 73%. The US and UK, however, continue to be seen as a ‘strong ally’ by more than half of those surveyed, while two-thirds (66%) said America would be a stronger ally of their nation than Russia or China in the next five years.
Arab youth call for US disengagement from the region
However, most would like the US to be less involved in Middle Eastern affairs, with nearly two-thirds across the GCC, North Africa, and the Levant countries saying they ‘strongly or somewhat support’ US disengagement from the region. When it comes to the war in Ukraine, a slightly higher percentage of respondents (28%) believe diplomatic negotiations will lead to a compromise than say the conflict will continue for ‘a long time with no clear resolution.' (25%).
Qatar is a top Arab ally
The region’s youth say they consider all the GCC countries and Egypt as strong allies. Qatar was named as ‘a strong ally or somewhat of an ally’ by 92%, followed by Kuwait (91%), Egypt (89%), the UAE (88%) and Saudi Arabia (86%).
Young Arabs were also asked about their views on Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022. An overwhelming 87% said the event had galvanized the Arab world and enhanced Arab pride, while an equal percentage said events such as the FIFA World Cup and Expo 2020 Dubai have promoted a greater understanding of the Arab world in general.
The 75-year Palestinian-Israeli conflict won’t be resolved soon
Arab youth are also pessimistic about the prospects for peace in the Palestinian Territories, with most (55%) saying the 75-year conflict between Palestinians and Israelis won’t be resolved within the next five years. Although a majority (60%) of GCC citizens said a positive resolution is ‘likely’, over two-thirds (69%) in the Levant, and more than half (57%) in North Africa, say it is ‘very unlikely’ or ‘somewhat unlikely’ that the conflict will be resolved soon.
Moreover, nearly four in 10 (39%) young Arabs overall believe that with rising national priorities, the conflict does not receive adequate attention from the Arab world, rising to more than half (51%) in the Levant region, which includes the Palestinian Territories.
When young Arabs were asked whether they supported or would endorse their government’s decision to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel, three-quarters (75%) in the UAE, a signatory of the Abraham Accords, said they supported normalization. A third in Bahrain, the first country to sign the agreement, said the same. In Egypt, nearly three-fourths (73%) support diplomatic ties with Israel, as do nearly half of the youth in Morocco, another participant in the Abraham Accords. In Sudan, however, the fourth Arab nation to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, 94% oppose it.
In South Sudan, 47% of youth favor closer relations with Israel, compared with 31% in Algeria, 19% in Syria and Yemen, 13% in Tunisia, 14% in Kuwait, and just 6% in Jordan. In the rest of the region surveyed, an overwhelming majority oppose diplomatic ties.
ASDA’A BCW commissioned SixthFactor Consulting, a leading research company, to conduct face-to-face interviews with 3,600 Arab citizens aged 18 to 24 in their home nations from March 27 to April 12, 2023. The largest sample in the survey’s history was equally divided between men and women in 53 cities across a total of 18 Arab states, including for the first time South Sudan. The interviews were deliberately conducted face-to-face rather than online to maximize their accuracy and to reflect the nuances of Arab youth opinion across the region as much as possible.
Sunil John, President, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said: “The UAE continues to be a lodestar for Arab youth seeking jobs, opportunity, and the freedom to realize their full potential. The uncertainty elsewhere in the global economy only serves to underline the nation’s winning attributes and the sound vision of its leadership.”
“Today, GCC economies are increasingly investing in world-class infrastructure as they become dynamic hubs for trade, finance, tourism, education, and healthcare,” added John. “Young Arabs see these countries as model nations because they appreciate the opportunities for jobs and prosperity being created and the potential to realize a better, more fulfilling life for themselves.”
“The rise of Qatar to be amongst the top-five nations to live in and to emulate is particularly noteworthy,” said John. “This reflects the hugely positive impact of the FIFA World Cup 2022 last November and December; without question, the tournament had a galvanizing effect on both the regional economy and Arab pride.”