In Lebanon we nurture dialogue among the youth wings of the country’s 18 political parties, providing a safe space for them to come together and begin to tackle some of the issues dividing them.
As part of the project, we organised comparative learning visits for the group to Belfast and Switzerland, so they could learn about experiences of conflict and politics in other countries. The trips highlighted some important lessons for the group. As one participant commented after visiting Northern Ireland:
When we heard from the man who lost his wife in an attack during the war, I was inspired by the fact he did not seek revenge. He just wanted the war to stop – for everyone. The important thing for him was to eventually be able to forgive and to reconcile. That was an inspiring thing to hear.
The group also found it useful to hear how politicians and political parties in Northern Ireland manage ongoing issues and day-to-day politics. "It is interesting to hear their experiences and techniques for doing politics in deeply divided societies,” said one participant. “There are many that I think are applicable to Lebanon. We have a similar struggle here after all.”
Some of the group, however, felt that the conflict in Lebanon was more complex: “In Northern Ireland, they have two main groups; in Lebanon, we have 18! I think this makes it harder. They have also found a real incentive to resolve their war. I don’t think we have found this yet in Lebanon.”
In Switzerland the group met with representatives from the government and other political experts to explore and reflect on the Swiss experience of democracy. The discussions gave the group the opportunity to learn about the processes and mechanisms for collaborating in a plural society, such as engaging citizens and decision-making by consensus.
Despite the challenges Lebanon faces, especially with the ongoing crisis in Syria, the group continues to collaborate as part of the project, providing invaluable lessons for the next generation of political leaders in the country.
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