Simulation teaches LAU students the importance of dialogue
International affairs students honed their diplomacy and conflict-resolution skills at a Byblos workshop.
The Lebanese National Dialogue moved to LAU’s Byblos campus May 8–9. But the actors were not politicians. They were 33 LAU international affairs students who participated in a simulation to resolve a crisis situation.
“The simulation exercise was to study the reaction of different countries and of the Lebanese factions to a would-be Israeli incursion into Lebanon, as well as the role of the Lebanese government in halting an imminent aggression,” said Dr. Walid Moubarak, assistant dean of LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences in Byblos, and director of the Institute of Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation.
During the workshop, the students learned the main elements of conflict resolution and played the roles of key actors in the National Dialogue — either representatives of the country’s major political parties or foreign governments concerned with the political situation in Lebanon.
Each student was provided with instructions about the exact role each actor plays in Lebanon.
The exercise was designed to make the National Dialogue “part of the students’ culture here at LAU,” and to show the importance of diplomacy as a strategic defense mechanism in Lebanon, Moubarak said.
Small countries like Lebanon “depend to a great extent on diplomacy when it comes to maintaining stability and deterring others from interfering in domestic affairs,” Moubarak added.
IDCT organized the exercise in collaboration with the Political Science/International Affairs Unit at LAU–Byblos, and with the support of the United Nations Development Program and Berghof Foundation.
UNDP experts and three experienced LAU professors — Dr. Moubarak; Dr. Marwan Rowayheb, the coordinator of LAU’s Political Science Unit in Byblos; and Dr. Makram Ouaiss, an expert in conflict resolution — supervised the students during the simulation.
“The exercise was meant to give the students the skills and knowledge of how to be part of organized simulations,” which “are tools where students learn how to approach conflicts and generate peaceful options,” Ouaiss said.
Ouaiss shared his experience in the field with the students. Before joining LAU as a full-time associate professor this year, he was a senior staff member at the National Democratic Institute, working on democracy promotion, and facilitating discussions and meetings among parties in disagreement about key reform issues in countries such as Bangladesh, Guyana, Iraq, Nepal, and Nigeria.
Nicholas Matta, a graduate student of international affairs, who played the role of the Lebanese president, said the exercise made him realize how difficult the position was. “I had to use all my negotiation skills. It was a really complex simulation,” he added.
This simulation was not the first involving political science and international affairs students.
“LAU has become prominent as an institution applying active learning,” Moubarak said. “We started 10 years ago by introducing the Harvard Model United Nations to LAU students and we continued over the years” with similar activities, he added.