Young people are inherently motivated to apply their ideas, talent and energy to help shape societies where they, and future generations, can live and work as productive and responsible citizens. Their involvement is critical to promoting tolerance, building peace and ensuring inter-generational transfer of protective family, cultural practices. Acknowledging the importance of engaging youth in shaping their future, the Center for Public Health Practice (CPHP) at the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) in collaboration with the MENA UN: NGO Adolescents and Youth Group held the second Evidence Symposium on Adolescents and Youth (ESAY) on September 25-26, 2018 at the American University of Beirut (AUB).
Over two days, the symposium served as a platform for the participants to discuss the latest evidence on and effective solutions for the most pressing issues affecting adolescents and youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
AUB Provost Mohamed Harajli in his opening speech highlighted the importance of the symposium: “this second symposium on youth comes at a critical time. Our youth are faced with challenges on a daily basis. Some of the highest rates of unemployment are in this region. Political instability threatens global investments and the sustainable path in the markets."
“By considering ways to translate the potential and enthusiasm of the young generation into assets for positive advancement and development, this symposium comes to reassure the role of the youth in shaping the future of this region".
The Evidence Symposium brought together more than 100 policymakers, practitioners, researchers, young people and donors, to discuss key takeaways based on research on issues of relevance for adolescents and youth in the MENA, build a process of learning based on good/promising practice documentation, enhance cooperation, exchange and partnerships, and identify regional evidence gaps.
On the leading role of AUB in involving youth in decision making and preparing them to become pioneers in improving their communities, Provost Harajli added: “At AUB, we are keen on empowering our students - not only to become successful in their fields, but also to play an important role in leading the region towards a better future. It is our duty, as a world-class university in the heart of Beirut to serve the under privileged to the limits of our ability."
“Our graduates live up to our motto engraved on our Main Gate 'that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.' At AUB, we aren't looking just to give our graduates a better life, we're equipping them to make the world a better place"
The main focus of the Evidence Symposium was on “Solutions that Work". Building on the evidence base established in the first Evidence Symposium held last year, the second symposium aimed to identify scaled and sustainable ways to address issues of school to work, transition, engagement, gender, and violence in the MENA region.
In his speech, Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF MENA Regional Director described the symposium as “unique and a timely initiative". “Unique because we won't only discuss the problems but also reflect together on solutions coming from young people," he continued “timely because today there is the potential of young people who represent a big part of the society."
Speaking on behalf of the Center for Public Health Practice Ms. Muna Khalidi presented the main findings on latest data on youth unemployment and determinants of youth wellbeing from published documentation based on work done by the Center.
“Young people in MENA comprise significant proportion of the population exposed to conflict, violence, and rights violations. They are for the most part demoralized and disillusioned by their current realities". However, according to Khalidi, “Participatory Action Research revealed that youth are positive and hopeful that their reality will change. They are ready and keen to engage positively to affect change"
In her turn, Ms. Aline Germani, Director of CPHP, presented a summary of recommendations for action and research for MENA youth. These recommendations include: strengthening youth-led research agenda and methodology; youth participation in policy and decision-making at local level; and establishing a system of tracking and documenting post symposium actions.
Germani stressed the importance of supporting research in the MENA pointing out that in some cases “documenting failures is as important as documenting successes".
"It is very important to support the access of youth to essential information and resources for their research," added Germani
Coming from Palestine, Tarek Odeh, 17, said “the symposium was a great opportunity for young researchers to discuss their problems and most importantly exhibit the outputs of their research for solutions that work".
Through the systematic engagement of adolescents and youth in the conceptualization, implementation and review of the 2018 Evidence Symposium, young people had the opportunity to truly amplify their voices and ultimately shape the polices of their future.
Raneem Muhammad, a 23 years old researcher from Syria said “this symposium gave us the opportunity to share our ideas as youth and get a feedback on them. We learned about research methods and how would the researcher develop his research to better implement it and reach a solution"
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to one of the most youthful populations in the world. Around 35% of the population is between 10 and 24 years old, and 60% is below the age of 30.
Please visit the Event's album on Facebook to view all photos.