Youth share experiences and build stronger networks at NET-MED Youth Beirut Workshop

More than a year after the launch of the NET-MED Youth project, a unique three-year project implemented by UNESCO and funded by the European Union, youth working groups have demonstrated an exceptional ability to learn new skills, develop creative action plans, and engage and affect change in their communities.

Beirut. This fast-paced cosmopolitan city was for two days, from 22 to 23 July 2015, home to a Regional and Strategic Planning Workshop that gathered 33 young women and men representing youth organizations from Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, in addition to partner institution representatives and UNESCO program specialists.

The regional Coordination and Strategic Planning Workshop allowed participants to share and evaluate the action plans developed and implemented since the launch of NET-MED Youth (in June 2014). One of the strengths of the project lies in the way it is contextualized in each country responding to the needs of local NGOs, and specific political and social transformations.

“NET-MED Youth offers us the space and skills to develop our own programs,” says Dareen Abulail, National Project Officer for NET-MED Youth in Jordan. “It is a very demanding and challenging project but it is the only one I know that really empowers and trains youth to do things the way they want to do them.”

Over the two days, the young women and men of NET-MED Youth shared with each other the progress every one of them made in their country, during the first year of the project, at the level of mapping and studies of youth organizations, capacity-building activities, youth engagement in policy dialogue, analysis and implementation, and national and sub-regional networking between youth organizations.

Youth took over the floor to brainstorm in multi-country teams, to present their own initiatives, to collect feedback and to plan together for years two and three of the project.

"We wanted to start small by working with a small municipality,” says Khawla El Behi, member of Taabir Association for artistic and digital expression in Tunisia, as she explained how their working group launched a pilot project in Kalaat El-Andalous that aimed at drafting an action plan to encourage the development of a youth strategy in the town and the participation of youth in public life. “We made it happen. Now the town’s youth, local NGOs and the municipality are working together and leading joint activities that satisfy the priority needs of Kalaat El-Andalous."

Several interactive presentations and activities followed. Youth stressed the need to be involved and emphasized the importance of actions that will make their networks grow in order to include and train a higher number of young people, even outside of the NET-MED Youth groups, to be full players in the development of youth policies, and in their respective communities and region.

"It is essential to make civil society a partner of public decision-makers," says Youcef Boukoucha, who is a member of Agora Association in Algeria, and whose focus is essentially on involvement of youth in civic matters.

Participants in the workshop benefited from the interactive and participatory nature of the event to share their diverse methodologies, results and data, to unify their efforts, and to explore opportunities for collaboration, joint activities and partnerships among each other and within their communities.

"It's very important to create this common space for dialogue and communication between youth, decision-makers, and all stakeholders,” says Tatiana Skaf, National Project Officer for NET-MED Youth in Lebanon. “This is exactly what NET-MED Youth is about.”