Student Prize

Welcome to ARI's Student Prize page!

Started in 2020, the competition provides an opportunity for young, up-and-coming voices to write about a variety of topics relevant to the MENA region in line with ARI's Areas of Work.

What policy reforms and/or policy alternatives should be articulated to counter the Arab region's chronic youth unemployment?

The Arab region is well-known for its labor market deficits. The prevalence of rentier economic models and political instability have resulted in limited sustainable and inclusive job creation. Youth, in particular, suffer from low labor force participation and high unemployment rates in most Arab countries. The proportion of youth in total unemployment in the region is more than twice the regional unemployment rate, exceeding 40% in countries like Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya, ad Palestine (ILO, 2022). These figures are higher than the global average and are largely determined by recent social upheavals, internal crises, and external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Youth in the Arab region are also affected by the issue of skills mismatch and the need for complementary education to offset it (e.g. extra and often private courses in English, IT, etc.), which keeps many of them not just out of work but also out of education or training (i.e. NEETs). Arab States are hardly doing anything to improve young people's economic inclusion, benefit from their productivity, and allow them to thrive as active members of society. What policies should be prioritized to solve the long-standing youth unemployment crisis in your country or in a number of national contexts in the region?

In a policy op-ed of approximately 1,500 words, please answer the question above.

All essays are due by 7 May 2023 and should be sent to the address: with the subject line “Student Essay Contest.”

Please refer to the style guidelines below to write a strong submission.


Essays will be judged by a panel on the strength and relevance of argumentation. The winning essay will be published in English, Arabic, and French on Arab Reform Initiative’s website and will receive a prize of 500 USD.


Anyone currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate programme is eligible to participate. Essays can be submitted in English, Arabic, or French. Essays should be in the form of a policy-oriented op-ed (see below).

Style Guidelines

Policy-oriented op-eds aim to provide concrete steps towards dealing with a specific problem. Due to their short nature, flowery language should be avoided, and only brief context should be given for the situation.

We are looking for a policy-oriented op-ed that addresses a very specific topic or problem, mostly an established situation that can be analysed. The best essays would include a strong analysis of a case study as well as a good discussion of how different social movements can overcome social divisions when lobbying for feminist policies. Authors should use short sentences, should avoid technical or scientific language, and should focus on writing a clear and easy-to-follow argument.

The components of a policy-oriented op-ed include:

  • The lead, which outlines succinctly the problem and the conclusion or recommendations. The length of the lead should not exceed 1-2 paragraphs. An excellent lead is one which goes straight to the core of the problem and summarises your main recommendation or approach.
  • The body of the paper, which provides the proof of the author’s argument, based on evidence and on facts which are based upon research. Don’t use footnotes, favour hyperlinks. Include reference to a source in the text itself.
  • The policy recommendations, which must be precise, realistic, and actionable. Suggest ways to address the issue/problem you have identified. Try to provide examples to back them up.
  • Don’t hesitate to develop your own voice and use analogies, anecdotes, or unique examples to illustrate your points and add some colour to your piece.

Past Winners

Winner for 2022: Hamza Bensouda on "Lessons from Morocco’s women’s rights movement: Overcoming divisions to push for reforms"

Winner for 2021: Rory Quick on "How can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?"

Winner for 2020: Amine al-Sharif on "How can diasporas support democratic transitions in the Arab world?"