FRI 18 - 1 - 2019
Date: Apr 18, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Engaging youth in decision-making
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine

The leaders of tomorrow need to be given a greater role in the decision-making process if lasting social change is to be realized.

Systemic transformations can succeed only if motivated younger people are given a chance to participate in national policy formulation. Pushing for democratic changes around the world, policymakers need to make sure that youth opinions and inputs are heard and addressed through political and economic avenues.

“Youthquake” is a mechanism for change in any society. But to what extent have we worked toward increasing youth participation in different social, economic and political arenas?

As a result of limited participation in national representative bodies and decision-making platforms, many young people – in response to situations of social and economic exclusion – look to exercise power outside of formal state structure and processes.

How much is done to appeal to young people and build their confidence in formal systems and structures as a path for political regeneration? To identify the complexities, reasons for the low levels of youth participation need to be addressed, with consideration of the challenges and practices associated with youth inclusion in national processes, structures, politics and within electoral mechanisms across the country.

Lebanon is at a crucial juncture, witnessing a major social, economic, environmental and intellectual transformation that calls for the creation of conscious public policies, backed by social science research, in a format that helps decision-makers understand and manage these transformations.

At the same time, a call is voiced for engaging youth in this decision-making and scientific research, which enables the country to understand future trends and craft effective public policies that support the building of a capable, balanced and peaceful society.

Today, more than ever, it is vital to improve investment in youth-oriented engagement policies and programs to create an enabling environment where young people flourish, regain trust and engage as responsible social actors and innovators.

This will help shape attitudes conducive to inclusion and address the issue of intolerance among young people.

This investment could be translated into real opportunities especially for the young women, who face tremendous inequities that result in disparities in education, security, employment and political and public participation.

On April 14, UNESCO and the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development launched the second Management of Social Transformations School, as one of the main activities of a broader two-year cooperation called “Lebanon a State of Knowledge,” which aims to support research policy linkage and enhance youth capacity in policy research. With an intellectual contribution by the Lebanese University – home to half of the doctoral and master’s researchers in Lebanon – the project aims to play a national role in enriching national scientific research.

During three days of intellectual exchange, participants reviewed the Sustainable Development Goals process in Lebanon, nurtured interuniversity partnerships and considered how research can help in inclusive policymaking relating to countering extremism.

Addressing the research roundtable during the opening session of the MOST school, I was surprised to see that more than 90 percent of the participating young researchers from three universities were young women.

Aiming at strengthening policy and social science research linkages, the young researchers discussed values, principles and challenges. They tackled national priorities including solidarity, inclusion, anti-discrimination, gender equality, accountability, corruption, agenda 2030 and preventing violent extremism.

One of the main results of this program was the building of sustainable communication networks among young Lebanese researchers participating in MOST schools, which support the increasing frequency of sharing knowledge and expertise.

Moreover, this helps to ensure the role of young people in the decision-making process through researching and analyzing the Lebanese political, socio-economic and cultural contexts and providing policy options.

Enhancing research-policy linkages is an effective approach to promote participatory decision-making and to enhance governance in addressing multiple issues of social transformations.

MOST works with governments, social and human science communities and civil societies to improve connections between knowledge and action promoting positive social change.

This type of sustainable dialogue – enhancing knowledge sharing and benchmarking between scientific research institutions and governmental, economic and civil society actors – characterize societies that have realized that investing in scientific research is a direct investment in their human and economic capital.

This scientific dialogue helps researchers provide practical and local solutions to societal challenges, thus bridging the gap between theory and practice.

It also supports the process of decision-making with accurate scientific analysis, increasing its effectiveness and raising the level of confidence of citizens in society and its institutions.

Confidence inspires confidence. Young Lebanese women and men are pushing science and research back to the forefront of the national agenda.

Governments should now seek the best possible scientific advice to support social transformations.

With reliable knowledge comes better decisions, fewer mistakes and greater results delivered for each pound spent.

Young researchers in Lebanon can contribute to “what works.”

Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director of the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 18, 2018, on page 2.


The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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