The only way to create a sustainable future in Lebanon is to engage Lebanese youth in decision making processes and to use the Global Goals as a roadmap, says Bruna Elias (a founding member of the newly launched #YouthPower panel).
“You are never too young to lead and you should never doubt your capacity to triumph where others have not.”
When we tried the approach of the older generation, we witnessed a civil war between 1975 and 1990. In the aftermath of Lebanon’s civil war, which ended after resorting to regional powers, our politicians whose average age is currently 60, failed drastically to rebuild Lebanon on new foundations. The enormous challenges and difficulties Lebanon has been through are demonstrated by economic, social, and environmental basic quality of life indicators over the past decades. Bad governance and corruption were the defining features of the past thirty years. Lebanon remains at the forefront of a protracted crisis with multi-dimensional and long lasting impact. Giving the same sectarian political system another chance would be futile. Young people are key to building a better future.
The 17th of October 2019 marked a new era for Lebanon, the beginning of an unprecedented revolution.
The Lebanese youth, who found themselves jobless, hopeless and with a non-productive economy, an unprecedented debt and a severe deficit, realised that they must be the agents of change. Revolting was our best option, despite the harsh consequences of dealing with political leaders who have built confessional empires fed by corruption and religious affiliations. It was our only resort. Finding a platform and being involved in building the Lebanon we dream of isn’t easy yet it is doable.
Lebanese youth stand ready to build.
Lebanon is home to more than 600,000 young people. United by a common goal and shared trajectory, young people have always been active architects in matters concerning communities. They have been driving social progress, proposing innovative solutions and inspiring political change. Young people struggle daily to achieve full economic, political and social integration in the country. Now, more than ever, they are under the spotlight and remain optimistic, despite the magnitude of the responsibility and the great resistance to change.
The youth of my country understand the sinister reality of things and are eager to make a change. But in order for them to do this, they must be given the right tools and space to make it happen. They must be actively included and represented in governments, councils and all policy making entities as equal partners, to ensure that their voices are heard and that their concerns are acknowledged. Investing in Lebanese youth has incredible potential for continued returns and will affect many generations to come. If we fail to realise their potential, the entire society will lose out greatly.
Why Young people?
Youth are the major positive force for development. Youth are the critical thinkers of this age. Lebanese Gen-Zers are becoming entrepreneurial either by choice, or by compulsion. Those that have spotted an opportunity in the market place are called opportunity entrepreneurs. Those who start businesses because they cannot find work any other way are called necessity entrepreneurs.
Older generations have become immersed in this situation and have witnessed battle zones and hot spots. Youth bring out their positive experiences and encounters and are able to overcome political and religious barriers and structures as well as biases. The world is now seeing a deep digital transformation. The Gen Z of Lebanon are more sustainability savvy, socially involved, and willing to make a change, than their Gen X parents and Baby Boomer grandparents.
It is now imperative to nurture a culture where data is used to improve people’s lives. As such, and given the access to unlimited online resources and social media, youth are connected more than ever and are given the status of change makers. Youth bring fresh perspectives and ideas to unearth solutions that were never exposed before. Youth are the innovators of this age.
Youth should be looked at as partners in rebuilding the country on sustainable foundations. This will drastically change the top-down approach currently prevalent and facilitate a participative and inclusive approach. For youth to be effective active citizens, they need to understand how political and economic decisions are made and recognise the huge part that they, individually and collectively, can play in contributing to improving accountability at all levels. Youth should take an active role in accountability mechanisms, this is the only way to reduce their mistrust in the current political systems. They can be a powerful force in safeguarding transparency and accountability.
There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.
In September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was formally adopted along with 17 Goals and 169 targets to end poverty, protect the planet, and bring prosperity to all human beings over the next 15 years.
By definition, “sustainable development” – development that meets the needs of the present without compromising those of the future – begins with respecting future generations as important stakeholders. They are the people who will experience the success or failure of the 2030 Agenda. The older generations compromised the needs of our generations and this is unacceptable! This is not sustainable!
If you look deep into the 2030 agenda, you’ll realise that it holds the keys to sustainable development of the country and an important roadmap to follow.
It’s now or never. We stand at a critical juncture to make decisions and put in place a governance architecture to engage with youth. The SDGs provide a roadmap and young people have the skills and the will to build the potential future they promise.
Architect by study and duty, SDGs architect by choice and passion. Bruna was able to design, contribute to, and facilitate many of the sustainability programs of the Lebanese network of the United Nations Global Compact, a network of businesses committed to advancing Sustainability and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).