Lebanese youth at the core of the policy in favor of youth development process
On the eve of the national conference during which the new Lebanese policy in favour of youth which was developed within the framework of a United Nations project managed by the UNESCO will be issued, Hamed Al Hammani, Director of UNESCO Beirut Office, Kamal Chayya and Rania Sabaayoun, Directors of Masar Association, the project partner go over the way the project was developed and the impact it already has on the Lebanese youth lives.
Why was UNESCO called to take the lead in this UN joint project in favour of Lebanese youth?
Hamed Al Hammami : Many Civil Society Organizations have been working on youth empowerment initiatives in Lebanon since 2000. The involvement of UN started with UNESCO undertaking sectoral research in 2003 with the aim of understanding Lebanese youth challenges and needs and organizing a national conference gathering around 200 youth organizations, which was held in 2005. The key recommendation of the conference was directed at the Minister of Youth and Sports, asking him to develop a national policy in favour of youth in Lebanon to guarantee and promote the rights of young men and women while providing more opportunities for their social inclusion and empowerment. This national policy formulation process was then designed. It included a research phase followed by a consensus building effort on the national policy in favour of youth framework involving youth and key policy makers. SIDA agreed to fund the proposal submitted by UNESCO and UNICEF. A UN taskforce on youth was then created to support the national policy developing process in coordination with 5 United Nations agencies: UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, ILO and UNFPA that funded and provided technical expertise to the project.
Why was the contribution of the social sciences essential to develop this new Lebanese policy in favour of youth and what will be revealed in the “National youth profile” that will be published soon by the UNESCO Beirut Office?
Hamed Al Hammami : Policy formulation was based on quantitative and qualitative studies made within the context of this project. These Studies were thoroughly debated among experts from academic communities, policy makers and the youth themselves. This debate promoted interdisciplinary research and policy oriented research in the form of a document entitled “national youth profile” which led to concrete political recommendations.
How can this project change the everyday life of young women and young men in Lebanon and has it had an impact yet?
Kamal Shayya:Once the youth policy is implemented, it will guarantee adequate, relevant, and highly needed services for young men and women in the various sectors. In addition, it will ensure the meaningful participation of youth in decision making processes in the public life of the country. A youth policy ensures that young women and men have the same rights as other citizens. Given this, it contributes to rebuilding young people’s confidence in their government. Today, young people from NGOs and political parties from all political colors have been meeting together, discussing their needs, problems and ambitions on the basis of a right based and issue based approach. They have gotten used to discussing youth issues, not only political ideology. They worked collectively, concerted their efforts, and lobbied the government to endorse the youth policy document by the Council of Ministers, which was done on April 3rd, 2012.
Can this project be an example for other countries in the Region?
Rania Sabaayon: Yes, the youth policy experience in Lebanon can be a model for other countries. The methodology used in Lebanon has been well researched. It was participatory, democratic, systematic, logical, and incorporated several stakeholders. In addition, this methodology placed young people in Lebanon at the core of the youth policy work. Their voices, their needs, their problems, their ambitions and their messages mattered the most! The experience of Lebanon could be very inspiring for other country because it is bottom up i.e. from the youth to the government, and not vice versa. Given that the youth policy is endorsed, young people are no longer demanders: they have become negotiators, lobbying the government to fulfill its promise by implementing the youth policy.
Interview by Seiko Sugita