A founding member of the United Nations and signatory of most international human rights conventions, Lebanon had all it takes to be a leading Middle-Eastern country in the question of human rights and development. The 1975 divisive civil war - during which World Vision launched its first operation in Lebanon - ended in 1991 with bruises that, until date, disrupt the country’s public services, faith communities, civil and human rights, and sectors like the economy, tourism, and environment.
Political responsibility and accountability also lacked at this stage of the Lebanese history. At the same time, a large range of young adults had similar aspirations despite their cultural or religious differences: fair access to livelihood opportunities, education, as well as representation and participation in decision-making processes. Tensions between political and religious communities manifested in an increase in violence and hostilities led by young men and women seen armed, unwilling to cooperate with peers from different backgrounds and once considered sworn enemies.
Three decades later, Lebanon refuses to engage in another conflict on the grounds of religious or cultural divergences. Today, this tiny country hosts the highest number of refugees per capita from neighboring Syria with over a million refugees settled in informal settings and urban areas. The country is also host to over 450,000 Palestinian refugees and over 35,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria. Pressure on public services significantly increased and the Lebanese government was still unable to set or clarify national policies in favor of managing the crisis. The refugee influx created social tensions among refugees and the host community, competing over access to basic services.
Although the Lebanese youth may still form one of the largest demographic groups to be affected by domestic struggles, many have chosen to speak up for their compatriots and pave the way to social stability. World Vision’s partnership with the European Union, a longstanding international partner to Lebanon, enabled the leadership and implementation of “Youth RESOLVE” in Lebanon and the region, including Iraq and Jordan, a consortium initiative under the EU MADAD Trust Fund with the mandate to strengthen the resilience of Syria’s neighboring countries affected by the humanitarian crisis. It amplifies the voices of Lebanese and non-Lebanese youth at local, national, regional, and international levels.
A channel of communication between the youth and decision-makers
Composed by a group of organizations including Islamic Relief Lebanon, CAFOD/Caritas Lebanon, Generations for Peace, and World Vision, Youth RESOLVE is a platform for the youth to initiate policy dialogue with local and international decision-makers in favor of enhancing social stability in Lebanon. The platform also allows them to advocate for reforms, social change and equal rights in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Global Compact.
At the local level, young men and women engage in consultations with government representatives from municipalities and public institutions. Advocacy priorities are set and regular meetings are held with people of influence, channeling the needs of the youth and asking for stronger participation in the decision making process. Firas Moussa, 21 years old and member of World Vision’s Youth Committee in Jdeideh, was set to represent all youth in Lebanon during a civil society consultation led by the Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Office prior to the Brussels III Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”, co-chaired by the European Union and the United Nations. “I am here today representing the youth in Lebanon, and have experienced several interactions with youth from different nationalities and been involved in a youth committee that aims to make a change within the community we are part of, we aim to connect with the Lebanese government to create linkages for youth and become decision makers”, Firas was quoted during these consultations. A high-level roundtable discussion is set to be organized by the consortium youth in June 2019 during which recommendations around youth participation in local governance.
At the regional level, youth from Lebanon and Jordan come into discussions to maximize their knowledge, share common challenges and explore possible opportunities to win the attention of the international community, primary actor in responding to emergencies in their respective countries.
At the international level, the youth get to engage and fully participate in global discussions, which was the case during the Brussels III Conference on Syria that witnessed a significant involvement of civil society, and notably the youth from Youth RESOLVE. Cynthia Bakalian, 23 years old, member of World Vision’s Youth Committee in Beirut Sin El Fil, one of the youth of Youth RESOLVE representing the Lebanese youth in Brussels III, shared the panel with the Minister of Education and Higher Education to speak out on the challenges of education faced by pupils in Lebanon. Cynthia is also a member of the World Bank’s Youth Advisory Council, in which she actively engages to raise the needs of her peers. Israa, Syrian Youth Volunteer of Islamic Relief Lebanon, could share her story and voice her concerns, shared by many other young Syrian refugees in Lebanon in front of an audience composed of high decision level makers from Lebanon and the EU States. Theresa Sarkis from Caritas Lebanon Youth had her own article on social reconciliation published on UK-based news website The Independent. Strong enough to have their own say at the international level, they were acknowledged, heard, and their needs were taken into consideration as quoted by European and international lawmakers with whom they got to lobby and interact with.
The world must acknowledge the importance of involving youth in decisions that affect their daily lives and their future. Their voices must be heard and participation encouraged by national and local bodies. A main constraint highlighted by the youth was the lack of a recognized and clear channel for their direct engagement with lawmakers and parliamentarians to facilitate their advocacy and lobbying efforts. Lebanon for example, recognizes a national youth council under the Ministry of Youth and Sports, but youth shared concerns around its consistency, impact, and representation of Lebanese youth exclusively. Locally, World Vision supported the establishment of youth committees in municipalities, now fully recognized and integrated in the municipalities of Sin El Fil, Jdeide-Bauchrieh-El Sid, and Furn El Chebbak, located in the suburbs of Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Every young man and women can be the leader of their own future, and deserve influential figures to leverage and help realize their ambitions for a future free from marginalization, social tensions and violence. 29 years following the end of the Lebanese civil war, the youth is the best hope for a country looking to advance at the local and international stage.
More information about the EU MADAD Trust Fund, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis: https://ec.europa.eu/trustfund-syria-region
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator
World Vision in Lebanon