UK aid’s approach to youth employment in the Middle East and North Africa

A review assessing the relevance and effectiveness of UK aid programmes in promoting employment opportunities for young people across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 8 July 2021
  3. Type: Full review
  4. Subject: Cross-government aid spend, Livelihoods and social protection
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey
  7. Lead commissioner: Tarek Rouchdy
  8. SDGs covered:Gender equality, Decent work and economic growth

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ICAI has scored the UK aid’s approach to youth employment in MENA as amber-red, meaning it is unsatisfactory in most areas, despite a relevant overall approach to promote economic stability and positive collaboration between aid actors. We made five recommendations on how the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) can improve its impact on youth unemployment in the region, including for women and vulnerable people.


  • UK aid supporting youth employment in MENA since 2015 has some positive elements but is unsatisfactory in most areas; improvements are required for UK aid to have a positive impact.
  • The overall approach of promoting economic stability and growth through macroeconomic reforms is relevant to the needs of the region, but assumptions in programme design are often not supported by evidence.
  • We commend the coherence of interventions across UK aid actors, but find they would benefit from more interdisciplinary working and a more even spread of technical expertise across countries.
  • Evidence of effectiveness across the portfolio is limited, due to a combination of programme design limitations and insufficient attention to monitoring and evaluation.


  1. Employment-related programmes should articulate clearly how they expect to contribute to job creation and economic development or address fragility, and ensure that these outcomes are monitored and evaluated.
  2. When promoting employment through economic reform, FCDO should undertake complementary interventions to tackle the specific barriers to employment faced by target groups.
  3. Employment-related programmes should be shaped by gender and social inclusion analysis, including of cultural barriers to the employment of women.
  4. FCDO should routinely consult with the young people expected to benefit from its MENA programmes and use the feedback to shape programme design and implementation.
  5. FCDO should strengthen its in-country partnerships with multilateral organisations by ensuring consistent strategic-level engagement.


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Published 20 October 2020

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 8 July 2021

Government response

Published 19 August 2021

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 24 November 2021

ICAI follow-up

Published 30 June 2022

Further follow-up

Published 18 July 2023