In the north of Lebanon, the absence of opportunities for youth contributes to a conflict-prone youth population with limited prospects. Perceived marginalization, limited economic opportunities, and no voice in the political arena often lead youth to live outside the law. The mixed nature of the region, which includes historically rival Palestinian and Lebanese communities, also increases tensions and the risk of violence.
To improve opportunities for youth, the USAID Lebanese Youth Civic Engagement project helped local organization Islah Youth Committee empower four youth groups to improve their communities and advocate for services from their local government.
“The project got us out of the streets,” said participant Omar Seif, 19, from Wadi El Nahle. After attending training sessions on conflict resolution, project planning, municipal roles and responsibilities, communication skills and advocacy, youth groups in Beddaoui, Manqoobeen, Wadi El Nahle, and Hara implemented community projects with a focus on clean-up and community beautification.
Youth painted the exteriors of houses and cleaned the main areas of the villages. For Oula Al Aatr, 24, the youths’ initiative “emphasized the negligence of the municipality and demonstrated youths’ capacity to make a change.”
The initiative was an opportunity for youth to interact with the municipality to seek approval for their work. Previously, some residents resorted to violence against municipal members in response to poor services.
“I learned how to properly advance a demand,” said Ahmad Melhem, 21. “Previously, if a municipal council member didn’t meet my demand, I used to beat him up; now, I follow the proper channels and it works.” The youths’ initiative encouraged residents to approach their municipalities and demand that they fulfill their responsibility of providing services.
All municipalities responded positively and helped support Islah’s clean-up efforts. “The municipality is not used to accountability. When they saw us [the youth] doing their work and influencing residents’ judgment, they decided to collaborate.” Youth also held several cultural activities that attracted local residents, who praised the youths’ efforts to reduce marginalization and improve their communities.