UNESCO trains young Syrian activists on leading intercultural dialogue initiatives

In the midst of armed conflicts, political instabilities, worsening economic conditions, and the rise of extremism, youth in the Arab region find themselves increasingly marginalized with less choices and decreasing opportunities, unable to effectively exercise their civic role as a dynamic force of positive change.

With the aim to empower youth, facilitate their social cohesion, and promote the culture of dialogue, UNESCO office in Beirut organized a training workshop under the NET-MED project targeting young activists from the Syrian civil society.

Entitled "Youth and social cohesion through intercultural dialogue in Lebanon", the workshop took place on 26 and 27 March 2015 at UNESCO Office in Beirut. Over two days, this event constituted an ideal platform to discuss the challenges faced by Syrian youth in Lebanon, and techniques to foster intercultural dialogue with youth leadership; especially Lebanese-Syrian dialogue. Twenty five participants shared success stories, good practices, and lessons learnt from their experiences in intercultural dialogue and social cohesion, while they discovered more about NGO Management, and the best mechanisms to initiate and maintain such initiatives throughout their organizations.

"This workshop was a great opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds and know more about their activities and work", stated Adeeb from the "Decostamine Initiative". "This is the right spirit of tolerance and accepting each others’ difference" he added.

The workshop served to promote networking and information sharing among stakeholders from Lebanese and Syrian civil society.

Zeina el Mir, from UNESCO's International Human and Sciences Centre (CISH), also praised the outcomes of this event. "It was a very constructive workshop where not only did we learn about NGO management but we also got the chance to network with new people and foster bridges for future cooperation and partnerships", she said.

High unemployment and weak labour market, lack of participation of young women, low representation in public and political spheres, disinterest in civic engagement, exclusion from mainstream media and economic marginalization are common challenges related to the social inclusion of youth in this region. NET-MED Youth is a UNESCO-EU joint response to these issues, built on an analysis of youth aspirations and needs in each partner country from the South Mediterranean. Through this pioneering programme, UNESCO aims to improve the access and effective participation of youth in developing and implementing national strategies and policies affecting young women and men.