“Mobilizing Youth to Build Unified Libya”
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is great to be here at this important event on the contributions of youth to peace and security.
Just at the beginning of this week, I was in Tripoli at an event convened by Libyan youth leaders who are working to train young people in dialogue and reconciliation. The richness of the discussion, the maturity of thought and the energy by which the ideas were communicated would have inspired many of my peers.
I would like to share with you just one story of one of the leaders who launched this discussion group called the Debate and Dialogue Club.
Salem Qamoudi is the founder of a local NGO called Shaik Tahir Al-Zawi Charity. He formed this humanitarian NGO just after the revolution, at the age of 24. In only four years it has become one of the leading local organizations to provide assistance to IDPs and migrants in Libya. Working in the unstable and dangerous environment, Salem and his colleagues take risks every day by doing what most of us are only capable of talking about.
But Salem and his colleagues are not alone. There are literally hundreds of similar initiatives in Libya. Youth leaders are taking the initiative to lobby Libyan institutions. They form the vast majority of the journalists that I meet, and they are by far the most active group on social media. They are coming up with ideas and contributions for the new Libyan constitution and they are the main group that mobilizes the population to go out and vote.
What a difference to my day to day work where, I must say, my interlocutors are mainly of my own age group – well above the age of 60
I saw the spirit of togetherness, in an atmosphere of fragmentation.
Outreach to political adversaries, as opposed to the loud voices calling for exclusion and polarization.
Dialogue in a fresh constructive atmosphere, instead of finger pointing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is due to stories like these that I have and will continue to advocate for an increased role for youth in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and that of their community. Today’s generation of youth is the largest the world has ever seen. And young people are the large majority of the population in all countries affected by armed conflict. Libya is no exception to this trend, with nearly two-thirds of the population under the age of 35. 50% between 15 and 35.
No country can emerge from conflict without the support of the youth. In 2015, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2250, acknowledging the role of youth in peace and security. This was overdue! The Secretary General appointed Youth Envoy Ahmed Hindawi. A much welcome and needed initiative.
I am about to appoint a colleague as “youth ambassador” of the mission; a young woman, who will liaise with the youth groups of Libya, advocate for the role of youth and help in building partnerships between international and regional initiatives which promote the development of the Libyan youth.
Young people are not only the future. They are the present of a country. The role of youth in contributing to peace and security is vital for any nation emerging from conflict. For this reason the UN urges all its member states to increase youth participation in decision making at all levels.
To this end, I have three messages:
Firstly: I will advocate for a greater role for youth in the decision-making processes in Libya. The dialogue and reconciliation groups are a step in the right direction. I would like to see more of these initiatives. We have to support them politically if requested, as well as financially.
Initiatives that allow youth:
to have a say on how government can become more effective;
to have a say on how laws can be revised;
to have a say on how national reconciliation can succeed, from the ground up.
I would like to support the mobilisation of youth committees to create discussion forums to debate openly the issues that must be addressed in the next election.
And when we come to those elections, I believe youth should have a fair opportunity to be elected. Let the youth compete alongside their elders, and leave it to the voters to decide.
Secondly: Media is Libya have to become more independent. I would like to encourage more investment in the training of journalists and the use of social media so that youth can be equipped with the knowledge of how to report and communicate information objectively and effectively.
Thirdly: And this concerns the OSCE. I would like to encourage the OSCE to increase its efforts to forge links between youth across the Mediterranean. Libya is a unique country. We sometime tend to forget that the overwhelming majority of Libyans are living on the coastal belt.
Historically, Libya has oriented also toward the power centers north of the Mediterranean – Rome and Athens. The OSCE thus is best positioned to reach out, to link their member states youth organisations to their counterparts in Libya. One possibility may be the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE can organise and sponsor a Mediterranean youth parliament, bringing together youth from across the region to work on issues that affect them all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Peace and security will not occur without real investment in our next generation of leaders. Their enthusiasm, energy and creativity must be supported so that it can help create a reality that reflects their ideals and principals.
The challenges in Libya are enormous and state building will take time. But this process must start today - now – and the young people must be fully involved. Libya’s youth are its greatest asset and we should ensure that they are given the opportunities needed to contribute to their country’s future.