Moving the National Youth Policy forward toward social justice

Youth Development project raises the voice of youth

With youth representing one third of the Lebanese population, its potential contribution to the country’s economic and political welfare is crucial. However, youth unemployment stands at 20%, according to a 2015 UNDP report, despite high literacy rates of 97%. Although a National Youth Policy (NYP) was developed in 2012 in consultation with local civil society and international cooperation, it remains unimplemented by the Lebanese government, due to more pressing political crises. To date no operational process policy exists.

To this backdrop, the EU-funded Support for Youth Development project Poliyouth organised, in coordination with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, a series of consultation meetings with youth across the country to gauge their needs in terms of priority and to assess their awareness of the NYP. This activity is in line with Poliyouth's aim of providing support to the Ministry for the implementation of the NYP, contributing to the institutional reform process and encouraging greater involvement from government and civil society in the public policy-making process.

Through these consultation meetings, youth were given a chance to express themselves and to suggest the appropriate procedures to resolve their local issues across the five sectors of the YNP: population characteristics and migration, economic action and participation, education and culture, social integration and political participation, and health. The meetings took place between October and December 2017, in partnership with local non-governmental organisations and were delivered in the areas of Saida, Jbeil, Hermel, Tripoli, Akkar, Nabatiyeh, Beirut and Chouf. This geographical spread aimed at a representative sample, noting that the livelihoods of young people vary across the country and can be extreme in remote areas. In total, 222 young men and women aged between 20 and 22 participated in the working groups.

Through these meetings, it became clear that youth are highly aware of local issues relevant to them and were keen to suggest ways and means to resolve them. Christina Boutros, a member of YAG (Young Advisory Group), attended meetings as a moderator and facilitator. “What was interesting in those meetings was to see the diversity in Lebanon, the difference between the priorities in the north and in the south, for example. In Jbeil, youth were asking about government support for start-ups, while in the south youth were talking about the weight of traditions that sometimes stand in their way, and the lack of transportation as an obstacle for them to go to school or university.”

However, at the same time a level of distrust in the government was expressed by participants as well as an inability to see themselves as major agents for political and social change. The findings of the discussions were used to form the basis of an advocacy strategy for Lebanese youth toward the implementation of the NYP. Ahmad Mehanna, advisor to the Minister of Youth and Sports, stated that this initiative demonstrated the Ministry’s concern for youth issues and allowed it to interact directly with youth. “We are now certain of some aspects highlighted in the NYP,” he said, adding that once the NYP is implemented then social justice will prevail for youth. “Thanks to these meetings we upgraded the NYP. We are now finalizing an implementation plan within two months. It then relies on the government to take this initiative further,” he added.

Jumana al Jurdi, Poliyouth Project Director, highlighted the role that NGOs can play in pushing for progress, stating that there is an urgent need to develop mechanisms for communication, coordination and cooperation among youth-related NGOs and CSOs. She said, “The wealth of experience of youth NGOs in multiple areas such as education, awareness, campaigning, vocational training and community development can all culminate in designing comprehensive youth programs in all regions addressing all sectors.”