Lebanon, a small country of only 4 million people, has long struggled with conflict and political divisions, often divided along religious and ethnic lines. The crisis in neighboring Syria is exacerbating these tensions. Youth leaders within the various political parties are often drawn into these conflicts, sometimes intentionally incited to hold violent demonstrations.
In 2012 local leaders approached the Permanent Peace Movement, a Lebanese organization, with the recommendation that they bring together youth representatives from each of Lebanon’s 18 political parties. They recognized the potential that youth have to model political dialogue on university campuses and in other settings. A three-day training and dialogue resulted, with support from MCC.
The Code of Conduct signed by all of the participants includes:
- The absolute rejection of violence in all its forms among students and in social media
- Affirmation of respect and acceptance of others and a commitment to work against hatred and intolerance
- Commitment to the principles of human rights and freedoms of religion, politics, expression and legal assembly
- Commitment to using democratic options at all levels
- Commitment to work together on issues common to youth across the political parties
- Adherence to the country’s laws and constitution, with a commitment to transparency and fairness.
The code of conduct has remained in effect since it was signed in December 2012.
Participants in the effort noted that while the code itself is important, even more valuable were the skills they gained in building consensus, the process of dialogue and the forming of relationships with leaders from other political parties—outcomes that could bear fruit for years to come.
Next: Lending a helping hand