LAU hosts first UNDP peace-building forum for young leaders
Students from nine universities around Lebanon gather at LAU Beirut to launch their own peace-building clubs and participate in the UNDP Peacebuilding Project.
LAU student Hala Hassan, founder of the LAU Peace-building Club, moderated the first forum for youth leaders from various universities, held at LAU and sponsored by the UNDP–Lebanon's Peacebuilding Project.
"The region literally transformed before our eyes precisely as a result of the boundless courage, determination and skills of youth leaders in country after country," said Shombi Sharp, UNDP–Lebanon's deputy country director.
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Youth leaders from nine universities around Lebanon gathered at LAU Beirut on February 25 to launch peace-building clubs at their universities and participate in the “Volunteerism and Youth Activism” forum, sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme-Lebanon’s Peacebuilding Project.
The event was the first of four forums organized by UNDP-Lebanon to promote youth leadership and engagement, each with a different theme: Volunteerism and Youth Activism; Millennium Development Goals and Human Rights; History, Memory and Reconciliation; and Citizenship.
The day kicked off with opening statements by Dr. Elise Salem, vice president for Student Development and Enrollment Management at LAU; Elie Samia, executive director of LAU’s Outreach and Civic Engagement unit; and Shombi Sharp, UNDP-Lebanon’s deputy country director.
“We are witnessing history being made and the region literally transformed before our eyes precisely as a result of the boundless courage, determination and skills of youth leaders in country after country,” Sharp told the audience.
“This is a powerful lesson still unfolding that has served to validate efforts to make youth engagement for positive change a critical part of our work in Lebanon and the region,” Sharp added.
Following panel presentations from members of the United Nations, government and NGOs on various initiatives promoting youth volunteerism, the students announced the launch of peace-building clubs at their respective universities and presented action plans for on- and off-campus activities related to volunteerism and youth activism.
Hala Hassan, a second-year graphic design student at LAU Byblos and founder of the LAU Peace-building Club, moderated the first forum.
Hassan says the LAU club plans to tackle many issues on campus and in the community.
“We are planning to display the movie Gandhi followed by a discussion about it and the premise of non-violence,” Hassan says.
Another activity will involve volunteers from LAU visiting groups of children with special needs or from an orphanage to raise the spirit of teamwork, peace building and leadership, Hassan adds.
Plans of clubs from other universities include visiting a prison for foreign workers, training high school students in leadership skills, spearheading a reforestation campaign, and conducting a field visit to post-conflict areas, to name a few.
LAU’s Peace-building Club currently claims about 15 members and expects to increase that number once it starts its hands-on activities, according to Hassan.
Hassan credits LAU and especially the OCE office with encouraging students to be a part of the community. “But it is up to each and every one of us to make the simple move and get involved in volunteerism,” she adds.
Established in 2007, the UNDP Peacebuilding Project aims to promote peace-building efforts in Lebanon by addressing the root causes of conflict and engaging civil society through conflict-resolution-skills programs and interactive dialogue sessions. More than 600 youth leaders, civil society activities, educators, reporters, mayors and religious leaders have taken part in the project over the past four years.
Besides LAU’s involvement in this project, Sharp commended UNDP’s “long and fruitful partnership” with the university. He added: “For example, LAU’s Institute for Peace and Justice Education has been our implementing partner for the summer schools on conflict transformation since 2004, a program which has now become a cornerstone for many young Lebanese entering the development field.”
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