Keep the Momentum. Under such motto a gathering of over 20 youth activists from eight countries – Denmark, Egypt, Jordan, Hungary, Malta, Morocco, Poland and Tunisia – took place in majestic Krogerup School in Humlebaek, Denmark, on 23 March – 1 April 2013. It was an in-depth training course on new media and public speaking where youth from Euromed region could come together, share their experiences and learn more about the Arab Spring. Centre for International Initiatives was also there, represented by Artur Malantowicz, Director of Asian Programme and Middle East Expert.
The training course, funded by the EU Youth in Action, was organized by Crossing Borders, a Danish NGO with a vast experience in intercultural dialogue. And the dialogue itself was in fact the main aim of the event. Of course, developing personal knowledge and skills in effective communication, including the digital one – between our organisations and our audiences via social media, blogging or online campaigning – was also at stake, but above all it was a unique opportunity to meet young activists from different countries, listen to their stories and learn from their experience.
Public debate about the Arab Spring
For over a week we were all engaged in discussion about the Arab Spring and the role youth has played and still play in the reform process in the MENA region. Of a particular interest was the issue of youth leadership and question whether the revolutions have in fact changed the status quo of the young people’s reality. Answers, unfortunately, were not that positive as too many examples of “old guard” taking over the uprisings could be seen all over the Middle East, even if it were the young people who constituted the critical mass for change. Moreover, there was also a space for brainstorming on possible solutions for the problems the youth is facing worldwide – one of the surprising discoveries was huge similarity between our (European) and their (Middle Eastern) everyday worries – and for looking for joint initiatives. We tried to figure out where both sides could step in, in order to help each other and, ideally, strengthen our civil societies.
Participants from Egypt – Samar and May
I found extremely enriching the chance to talk to people with first-hand experience of the Arab Spring, people who not only dreamed about better future for themselves and their families but also took the challenge to fight for it, in their communities and in the streets.Samar Elhussieny, a young passionate Egyptian from Andalus Institute for Tolerance & Anti-violence Studies shared with us her own, very personal story of the Tahrir Revolution which had a deep meaning for herself and for her father. She also explained that her organization, and many similar, should not cease to work as situation in Egypt is far from perfect. On the other hand, Farah Melloulchi and Sami Ben Hassine, helped us understand the character of Tunisian revolution and told us the story of mobilizing Tunisian diaspora from all over the world to fund the Pacte Tunisien, organisation aiming to awake the society and ensure the long term change. Sami’s flat in Paris has even served for a moment as headquarters of the oversees revolt.
‘Keep the Momentum’ team
Jordan being a case of a somewhat limited case of the Arab Spring, about which I wrote elsewhere on this blog, was represented by Leaders of Tomorrow. Contrary to the name, however, the LoT’s team – Rawan Da’as, Najwan Abu Shawareb and Abd Abu Hnana – clearly proved that they are not only future hope of Jordanian society. Above all they are pioneers, creative leaders of today, making an effort to engage people in debate on issues important for the whole nation. These, of course, are only a few names of participants and I am not mentioning all only due to the limited scope of this article. Indeed, all of them have their stories and all deserve to be voiced.
Discussion on situation of the Polish Youth
A thorough discussion should follow up now on where the Arab Spring is heading, towards Summer or Winter, and, what is of key importance for all above stakeholders, what should be the role of youth in the years to come. How can they influence the decision-making process, how can they make sure that they will be truly listened to and they won’t be used as a tool by politicians? Consequently, under consideration shall be taken the issue of sustaining the reforms, ensuring their continuity in order to provide all parts of society with necessary freedoms and liberties. And what is even more crucial, the question of how to transfer these deliberations into practice ought to be answered as well.
Sami Hourani from Leaders of Tomorrow has recently said at the Anna Lindh Forum in Marseille: “Youth are here! Youth are inside each of us! Just let it go and feel your youth spirit and don’t shy away from it!”. After the training course in Denmark I have the impression that all of us found our youth spirit once again (true, some had it before), a spirit which is inspiring and encouraging to take actions, to collaborate beyond borders, to seek intercultural dialogue, respect and understanding. I am sure that Centre for International Initiatives will soon get engaged in such cooperation even more than before. We will carry on with the experience and Keep the Momentum!
Intercultural dialogue, cooperation beyond borders and variety of all of us is the spice of life. Such attitude was clearly shown in the video directed by Csilla and Viola from Hungary, with input from all participants of the training course. Ladies and Gentlemen, “Beyond Blue Eyes”:
Artur Malantowicz – Director of CII Asian Programme (since July 2012), works at the University of Warsaw (UW) where he is also a PhD student at the Faculty of Journalism and Political Science. Graduated from the Institute of International Relations UW (2011) and the Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies UW (2011) and in addition studied at the University of Kent in Canterbury (United Kingdom, 2008-09) and the University of Jordan (Jordan, 2012-13). Trainee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland (2011) and the EU Delegation in Amman (2013). Research interests: International relations of the Middle East, regional security aspects in the Middle East (e.g. Arab-Israeli conflict, peace process, the Palestinian refugees), foreign policy of the Arab states, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (history, political system, foreign policy and the democratization process), superpowers’ policy towards the Middle East.
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Middle East Expert w Centre for International Initiatives
PhD in Political Science (2016). Research interests: International relations of the Middle East, regional security aspects in the Middle East (e.g. Arab-Israeli conflict, peace process, the Palestinian refugees), foreign policy of the Arab states, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (history, political system, foreign policy and the democratisation process).