09.04.2014 - UNESCO Office in Beirut

Lebanese and Syrian youth work together for a better future

Displaced Syrian youth in Lebanon are facing a lot of challenges that lead to social exclusion and lack of minimum human social security. These challenges include obstacles to self-expression, to access of information and to access to education. Low social status and livelihood, unemployment, and violence and drugs among youth which further contribute to social exclusion. As part of UNESCO Beirut response towards this crisis, and within the creation of an enabling environment for Freedom of Expression, UNESCO Beirut and World Vision inaugurated on Tuesday 8th of April 2014, a “Youth Information Centre” in the town of Kfar Zabad – Central Bekaa in Lebanon. The establishment of this centre comes under the project “Promoting Freedom of Expression in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen” funded by Finland.

Ghiwa, a young Lebanese resident of Kfar Zabad, says she’s tired of the sniggers and whistles she hears from Syrian refugees as she walks through her town. She would never consider dating a Syrian boy. She also added that cultural differences between the two populations are the biggest point of friction.

On the other hand, Bahaa, who was forced to abandon his degree in civil engineering last year when he fled Syria for Kfar Zabad, says he’s tired of Lebanese people looking down at him and his compatriots and the tendency to group all Syrians together. He is now teaching math at a local school and as a Syrian, he said that he needs to prove himself. However, both Ghiwa and Bahaa are open to attending gatherings at the Youth Information Centre where they will be able to express such feelings to each other, get to know each other and enhance their capacities together.

In his speech to mark the opening of the Center, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut, Hamed Al Hammami said that UNESCO is keen on bringing better educational opportunities for the Syrian refugees as well as improving the quality of education for them as well as for the host Lebanese communities. In addition, cultural dialogue for peace is one of the organization’s priorities. In emergencies, youth are often marginalized, hence, this project targets young people, both Syrian and Lebanese, and young women in particular.

Director of World Vision in Lebanon, Anita Delhas-Van Dyke said: "it is necessary that both local and international aid contribute to easing tensions between the two communities and to secure aid for families of both host communities and refugees."

The Lebanese community has a growing burden of fostering educational, social and health care needs for the Syrian refugees, since it received more than a million Syrian refugees on its territories. Lebanese communities showed considerable generosity, and hosted a lot of refugees in their homes and secured their needs. But the large numbers of incoming refugees for this small country is creating unbearable pressures on all levels. Deterioration of the security situation and worsening tensions among Lebanese and Syrians are arising fearing for their future. Young Syrians refugees in Lebanon face several challenges from social isolation to emotional instability which may prevent them from self-expression and access to information and educational resources. This may put them in a vulnerable situation which may lead them to resort to violence or social ills.

The Youth Information Centre and its programmes will assist both Syrian and Lebanese youth in the process of integration in society and enable them to learn and access information which will lead to better inclusion in society, self-expression and development. The center occupies the ground floor of the Kfar Zabad municipality building and boasts a library, computers lab with internet access, a wall-mounted flat-screen TV as well as meeting place. It will be open six days a week to Syrians and residents of kfar Zabad and neighboring villages free of charge.


Related link: UNESCO Syria Crisis Response 

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