Youth networks join forces to turn ideas into action

From 14 to 18 February, the “Debate to Action” communications and leadership programme brought together young Arab emerging leaders in Amman, Jordan, to enhance their capacities to make their voices heard in the public sphere and carry-out effective advocacy. The five-day workshop aimed to provide these young women and men with the tools to become ambassadors for dialogue in their region.

The programme was organized by the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Jordan Media Institute and Common Purpose International in partnership with UNESCO (through the EU-funded NET-MED Youth Project), the British Council (co-manager of Young Arab Voices), and the World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid.

During this innovative workshop, participants tackled a common challenge relevant to societies across the Mediterranean: How can we make a step change in the ability of young leaders to get their messages across?

This marked the first time that two of the region´s flagship youth programmes - NET-MED Youth and Young Arab Voices - convened young members of their respective networks to take part in a joint training initiative. “What made it exceptional was the visits to places where there is concrete media experience… as well as the sharing of knowledge by experts, the café conversations, the building of capacity on communication and media techniques… and the link made between debating and media techniques, which is a way to turn young people into decision-makers themselves”, said Jihen Ayed from the Tunisian NET-MED Youth Working Group.

Training modules on leadership (delivered by Common Purpose) and communication (hosted by the Jordan Media Institute) were accompanied by inspiring on-site visits, and participants were mentored by media experts, decision-makers and senior leaders; enabling them to gain new capacities, reflect on the challenge at hand and jointly propose actions to face it. One session also focused on UNESCO's #Unite4Heritage Campaign, which has garnered strong engagement of youth worldwide.

We learned a lot regarding media advocacy and I think this is important for youth as much as the air that we breathe; because if we need to influence the politicians and policy-making in our region, we must learn this and be professional on this”, noted Hamzeh Wael, a Young Arab Voices Alumni from Jordan. Some participants also got to put their communication skills to good use as they were interviewed by Jordanian National Television.

Club de Madrid Member and former Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zlako Lagumdžija, shared his advice on how to undertake effective advocacy, encouraging young leaders always be prepared, be themselves, persuade others by being rational while also by reaching hearts, take risks and accept failure, respect everyone’s dignity and never cease to follow their values, remain optimistic and passionate in what they do.

Joelle Djib, member of the Lebanese NET-MED Youth Working Group, underscored the value of the programme in that it allowed for discussions on “how to be a leader, use different communication tools, be creative and do a real brainstorming of our ideas to think more about ourselves and develop our ambitions”.

The programme itself was not the only object of praise, however. Leaders and experts were in awe of the youth convened. Paul Gillespie, Journalist for the Irish Times and a member of the EuroMed Media Network noted the uniqueness of “their windows into their own societies”.

In turn, Randa Habib, who is part of the same network and the Director for Middle East and North Africa for Agence France-Presse, added: “There is a generation out there who wants to make a difference, and they have to be encouraged”, but they also need to find out how to use the tools available, and how to engage the media, she pointed out “They have a ton of projects in their mind, some of them are just amazing!”  She exhorted trainees to tell the truth and take advantage of all the tools that previous generations did not have; while following ethical standards; assuring them that then people will notice them and hear what they have to say.

This communication and training programme was designed as part of “Debate to Action”, a strategic research and development project funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office that focuses on the role of youth leadership and debate in strengthening resilience and promoting socio-economic participation.

The Networks of Mediterranean Youth (NET-MED Youth) project is implemented by UNESCO and funded by the European Union. To learn more about Networks of Mediterranean Youth (NET-MED Youth), visit www.netmedyouth.org  and follow us on: www.facebook.com/netmedyouth.