Oct 19, 2010
Regional Preparatory Workshop on Youth Participation
The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), in cooperation with the Civil Society Preparatory Committee for the Forum for the Future process, a regional workshop on youth participation on October 18-19-20, 2010. The workshop is in the context of preparations for the annual Forum for the Future that will be held in January 2011 in Doha, Qatar under the auspices of the co-presidency formed by Canada and Qatar. It comes after two other preparatory workshops that were held in Qatar and Turkey, on the topics of human security and the private sector, respectively. The Workshop included over 100 participants from the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region, young professionals, scholars and activists involved in civil society initiatives in their countries. Representatives of public authorities and diplomatic missions were also attending. His Excellency Interior Minister of the Lebanese Republic Ziad Baroud opened the Workshop with a keynote address in which he spoke of the perceived duality between the political process and civil society, insisting that they are intimately connected and underlining the necessity for a real partnership between them, indicating successful and constructive experiences such as the civil campaign for elections and volunteers in the Ministry of the Interior. He also insisted on the connection between the security role of the Ministry of the Interior and its role as a guarantor of human rights. Finally, he pointed to the need for more effort on providing free spaces for organizations to operate, as well as the need for a broader political participation of women and the need to insure access for persons with special needs. The working groups revolved around the participation of youth in different sectors. As the participants shared national experiences, defined the challenges and obstacles facing the integration of youth in these sectors, they delved into the frameworks that would allow youth to participate in solving the problems facing countries in the region. On the issue of the political participation of youth, there was a focus on the importance of the electoral process, the value of transparent and accountable governance and the consecration of the role of civil society as monitor and partner in these processes. The participants pleaded for an improvement in the participation of youth in political parties by reducing the rigidity of party structures and combating political corruption, both of which reduce the interest of youth in political participation. The participants demanded a reform of national educational curricula to consecrate the concept of citizenship. They also emphasized the importance of electronic government and the development of accessible databases for all ministries to improve transparency in policies. With regards to the social integration of youth, the participants emphasized the effects of the persistence of traditional structures, of tribalism and of sectarianism on the general state of politics, economics and society in the region. They agreed that laws regulating organization and assembly participate in depriving youth of participatory spaces, especially as they favour a securitarian approach. They pleaded for more cooperation and networking between civil society actors in the region to benefit from national dynamics on a regional level. The participants emphasized the importance of consecrating a culture of integration especially with regards to the more marginalized categories such as girls and women, people with disabilities, the poor and isolated geographical areas. Concerning the economic reality, the participants concentrated on the role of youth in economic development, emphasizing the importance of continuing reforms of the educational system and developing it to best fit the needs and necessities of development and the labour market. The participants demanded an easing of travel conditions between Arab states for students and interns as well as increased support for vocational training in the region. In light of the critical situation of unemployment in the region they insisted on the importance of fostering productive sectors in the region within a framework of regional complementarity and cooperation among Arab countries. The central importance of effectively using national resources through mechanisms of just distribution of wealth was discussed, with a reference to the role of sovereign funds and the importance of channelling them towards regional developmental challenges, and to the importance of fostering participative processes for national budgeting and the monitoring of public finance. The need for a broader vision on the issue of migration, expanding beyond the securitarian approach to include its human, developmental, economic and rights-based dimensions was emphasized, as well as the need for reversing migration flows. On the issue of cultural enrichment, there was an emphasis that culture is a central tenet of public life in the societies of the region and that cultural richness and cultural, religious and ethnic diversity are unique in the Arab region, and that the coexistence of religions and sects is a civilized message to the rest of the world. However, there are vast cultural challenges in the region, especially with the recent spread of a culture of intolerance. The primacy of freedom of speech, publishing and access to information was emphasized, in different media including the internet, and that education is a central tenet in forming a strong and open culture in individuals. The participants issued a list of detailed, workable and targeted recommendations for public authorities, private sector and civil society in the region and unanimously issued a plea to follow-up the recommendations of the workshop and work on their implementation, through an effective framework allowing them to connect and combine their efforts.