Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
A two day virtual AUB-USJ NGO Forum took off with the theme “Youth Mobilization – Post-Blast Recovery." The annual forum brought together students, staff, and faculty from both sister universities, AUB and Université Saint Joseph (USJ), with experts in various fields and members of civil society to look into past and potential efforts towards recovery and reconstruction after the Port of Beirut blast of August 4, 2020.
“[Our] aim is to highlight the active role that our universities have played, the role of civil society, and the role of the affected communities themselves in response to this very unfortunate, unprecedented, and particular crisis," said Rabih Shibli, director of the AUB Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) who thanked “the leaders of both universities who have been outstanding champions for the obligation of higher education to address society's most pressing challenges." Shibli steered the sessions with his collaborate from USJ, Dr. Gloria Abdo, director of the Department of Student Life.
In yet another partnership between the two universities, the NGO Forum was launched at AUB in 2009 and in 2017 became an annual collaboration with USJ. Before the pandemic, each year, one of the two universities would host civil society NGOs and allow the university communities to interact first hand, and look at possibilities for work, training, or volunteering with them. This year, the sessions over two days included presentations by different stakeholders, experts, and volunteers, and offered opportunities for the participants to interact with experts in construction, restoration of cultural heritage, reviving livelihoods, mental health, psychosocial support, and coordination moving forward.
“When we bridge the on-campus, off-campus gap, something remarkable happens—not just in communities but also in our own journeys of learning," said AUB President Fadlo Khuri at the opening ceremony. “AUB has learnt many lessons during [its] journey, while building up an extremely impressive track record of humanitarian and developmental interventions during the last decade. We are part of an exceptional civil society presence in Lebanon that was recognized by Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, the former UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon."
In his recount of the different relief and reconstruction contributions of AUBMC health teams and AUB faculty, staff, and students, President Khuri spoke about the importance of the three touchstones of civic engagement: reflection, reciprocity, and responsibility. He also emphasized the three requirements to building resilience and studying its factors: education, livelihood, and mental wellbeing.
Students, staff, and faculty from both universities engaged with the forum speakers who shared their experiences in humanitarian practice and reflected on quick impact response and coordination immediately after the blast. Participants familiarized themselves with various intervention sectors and their scope of work, as well as room for further collaboration and potential volunteering opportunities.
“The USJ has taken on the mission to prepare moral citizens armed with knowledge, ethical principles, and the will to build a nation," said USJ Rector Salim Daccache. “Our university will not give up and will not despair. We are the children of hope and resurrection and we are committed to continue to work for the resurrection of Lebanon and the preservation of its people."
The forum panels continue to be livestreamed and are recorded for subsequent watching. A booklet on the contents of the forum will follow.