Join the CIC National Capital Branch’s Middle East Study Group (MESG) in a virtual panel discussion that will feature two young professionals who will present their perspectives about the recent changes in geopolitics of the region and the manner in which these changes would impact aspirations of the youth in the Middle East.
Meray Maddah is a Research Assistant at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. Her research focuses on political transitions between state and non-state actors, in addition to conflict transformation and power-sharing dynamics between regional actors. Maddah’s research also focuses on proxy agents and their influence on direct and indirect foreign policy trajectories. Prior to joining SIPRI, she worked with the Berghof Foundation focusing on prevention of violent extremism and advancing dialogue in an inter-sectional design. During her studies in International Affairs she was part of The Fund for American Studies in the Czech Republic and the Jean Monnet Network in Russia. She was previously part of the International Youth Federation and worked with the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. Maddah was a Peace and Conflict studies fellow with Rondine Cittadella della Pace researching instruments that reduce armed conflicts in a transformative lens. Notably, she is the awarded winner on the Middle East and North African (MENA) region for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s 50th Anniversary Research Paper Competition for her researched piece titled “Welcoming the 4th Revolution: A Cyber-Physical Reality by 2030”. Also, she is the notable winner for the “Dokdo Islands’ Sovereignty” research competition launched by the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Korean battalion.
MENA Youth vis-à-vis International and Regional Policies: Grievances and the Way Forward
I will be expanding on the recent developments that many ME countries witnessed in terms of social and political unrests, and how the youth were/are a decisive factor in the desired result of a systematic change in the region. I will be mentioning the different grievances that youth groups face, and how variable degrees of inequality and economic recession (some inadvertently resulting from US strategies in specific state case-studies such as sanctions on Iran as an example, and some resulting directly from the state’s mismanagement of its resources such as Lebanon and Iraq) have affected the development of youth in the ME and their status, as seen in the present time. Including the disfranchisement of economically active youth displayed in vast examples of structural and cyclical unemployment, to name some principle grievances affecting the overall economies of states in the ME. Furthermore, several international and regional actors have tried various approaches – be it by funding opportunities towards projects or initiatives that are mostly directed towards civil society platforms – that have been saturated and in some cases do not result in a sustainable evaluation of the youth’s status in the ME. It is important to mention that the State has to be playing a vital role in identifying how can be a focal point in tackling policies designed to enhance the youth’s role in society and create a reciprocal benefit underlined by trust and a cohesive social contract.
Lena Saleh is a doctoral candidate (near completion) in the Department of Political Science at Carleton University. Her research interests focus on Middle Eastern and Lebanese politics, women’s rights, and cultural studies. Her doctoral thesis (successfully defended in December 2020) examines the relationship between Lebanese popular music and gender norms in Lebanon. Lena’s research has been presented at numerous academic conferences, including the Canadian Political Science Association, the American Political Science Association, and the International Studies Association. She has also authored several book chapters and articles exploring popular culture in the Muslim world, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and American foreign policy in the Middle East. Her most recent publication can be found in ‘Nationalism and Popular Culture,’ (2020) edited by Tim Nieguth.
Lebanese Youth, Democracy, and Existing Barriers
In Mid-October 2019, the Lebanese people flooded streets and squares across the country demanding transparency and economic reforms from their political officials whose decades fiscal and political mismanagement had created one of the worst economic crises the country had ever seen. Lebanese youth, importantly, have been heavily involved in the protest movement since its outset. Indeed, official Lebanese statistics estimate that the unemployment rate for individuals under the age of 35 is 37%. And, Lebanon’s demographics, like many other countries in the Middle East, are skewed heavily towards the ‘young,’ with about 40% of the country’s university educated population under the age of 25. These grim statistics are exacerbated by the country’s complicated confessional/sectarian system, whereby employment and educational opportunities are dependent on one’s religious sect and ability to secure a wasta (i.e. a personal connection able to use influence/power). Understanding the seriousness of their situation – and the state of the country their generation is set to inherit – Lebanese youth have been very vocal critics of the country’s sectarian system and have broken longstanding taboos, including burning the portraits of the some of the country’s various sectarian political leaders. Christian, Shia, Sunni, and Druze youth have stood unified, each openly critical of their community’s respective leaders, demanding the removal of sectarianism.
Please direct your advance questions Hamid Jorjani, Chair of the CIC National Capital Branch’s MESG at: firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 20 January 2021.