Since the start of the conflict, the overall population inside Syria has declined by approximately 12 per cent due to out-migration, reduced fertility rates and, for men, higher mortality rates. According to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Syria, there are still 6.2 million internally displaced persons in Syria, meaning that approximately one-third of the population inside the country is displaced, with movement and displacement ongoing. Roughly 3.8 million youth aged 15 to 24 remain inside Syria and comprise approximately 21 per cent of the country’s population.
The information in this Insight Paper is compiled from interviews NRC conducted with 24 youth (ages 15 to 24) in Syria – 24 interviews with people under 24. The interviews provided an opportunity for Syria’s youth to tell their stories, be heard and document the challenges they face in realizing their goals. This paper provides insight into what Syria’s youth themselves say about their needs, their wants and the future they envisage for themselves. From these, lessons are drawn and ways forward suggested for the international community to best support these youth to again, have access to relevant pathways for learning, and to confidently and safely shape their futures and those of their families and country.
Donors and humanitarian aid agencies should consider the ways forward recommended below:
- Insist that all data collection and reporting which informs decision-making is disaggregated with a bracket for 15 to 24 year olds. Ensure that youth are considered as a discrete category with unique and complex needs to be addressed. #countme
- Consult youth directly to inform the design of youth programmes. Ensure the specific needs and voices of young people in Syria are highlighted when decisions affecting them and their futures are being made.
- Acknowledge that youth have significant potential to contribute meaningfully to the creation of a stable and peaceful Syria. Fund and implement actions built on a premise of the positive potential of young people and commit to supporting youth throughout all phases of a response, including in rebuilding and recovery, wherever they end up living.
- Insist that improvement in youth well-being is a targeted outcome of all youth programming, alongside skill building. Ensure that psychosocial support services and referral pathways to youth-focused protection services are mainstreamed and integrated across all programming.
- For youth who wish to return to education, provide safe and supportive pathways to formal and non-formal education, ensuring certification or due recognition. For youth who have been excluded from learning, provide flexible and innovative support especially to overcome challenges faced as a result of early or forced marriage, being a young mother, being the female head of household, or the demands of being financially responsible for a family.
- For youth who wish to work, ensure that livelihood interventions targeting youth are responsive to labour market needs and demands to ensure maximum employability. Provide opportunities for new learning pathways such as apprenticeships, technical and vocation education.
- When youth programmes do not comprehensively address early marriage, form multi-sectoral partnerships to be able to offer the range of services and support to young women at risk of early marriage. In particular, recognize and further support the work that community-based organizations in Syria are already doing to address these issues.
- Ensure that programming seeks to transform, not only the youth, their families and communities, but also the systems, governments and workplaces in which they function, to ensure that youth are safe and empowered within these domains, to reach their full potential.
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