Lebanon

Lebanese youth below the age of 25, who constitute more than half of the population, suffer from weak integration in the social environment and from the economic crisis. They are faced by unemployment due to lack of jobs, difficulty of getting into the work cycle and difficulty of securing a house or a place to live. Furthermore, they are directly affected by the deterioration of the educational level and system, and the changing cultural context, which is leaving them helpless in front of the contradictory and changing norms around them.

The situation in Lebanon is stable these days, but society in general and the young ones particularly are in front of big challenges like work, money, health, immigration, women’s rights, etc. And it is so difficult to achieve all these things knowing that Lebanon until now is paying the bills of the civil war. It is so easy to destroy but so difficult to construct, but we always look forward to achieve many targets and to put our country in a good level in the world and to have many connections with others.

Property and unemployment are attributed to internal as well as external factors which affect the Lebanese youth very badly. Drugs are relatively new in Lebanon, so it does not play an important role in the youth development’s lack of fair work opportunities and chances.

We are facing very serious problems in our country because of the economic situation and there is a very high percentage of emigration of young people to other countries searching for work and I cannot summarise the situation in this paragraph only.

Palestinians in Lebanon are denied their civil rights. As a result of that and other factors such as the civil war in Lebanon, cuts in funds, economic marginalisation and the government denying residence status, the socio-economic situation of the refugee community has deteriorated rapidly. Most families live in extreme poverty. The standard of education has declined and most youth do not even finish secondary school. Overcrowded classrooms, poor level of education, financial constraints and the Lebanese government denying access to more than 70 professions has contributed to that. Difficulties in finding jobs due to lack of skills or low access to jobs has also been a discouraging factor amongst youth. This has resulted in low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and depression. Most of the young do odd jobs to support their families or look for ways to leave the country. The situation has left them distraught and hopeless.

Lebanon’s economic situation is quite delicate. Our country is witnessing a mass migration of our youth from the rural areas to the city and mostly abroad. As for those who remain, they are facing a high unemployment rate and very few employment opportunities, despite the high rate of literacy among our youth. The growing rate of school dropouts and poverty are causing an increasing rate of drug addiction, estimated at 70% among the youngsters. As Lebanese youngsters naturally head towards specialisation, we are witnessing saturation in many fields. Vocational training and orientation are in need. If we were to sum up the youth situation in Lebanon, we could say that youngsters feel very little involved in the national, political and economic life. Participation, whether political or social is not a common interest, which leads them more towards migration and the ceasing lack of identity.

Many graduates spend years after graduation unemployed due to the lack of job opportunities. I think that Lebanon is passing through very serious financial problems due to 17 years of war and destruction during which no progress was achieved. But the recent improvements are proving that Lebanon is doing well at recovering from the consequences of the civil war.

Youth are in difficult situations because of the political, economic and educational situations. Many of them think of leaving Lebanon because they are not allowed to express themselves, and there are only a few projects that address the youths’ needs.

The situation of young people in my country is on a declining course. This matter, by all aspects, should be checked and reversed. Lebanon is now facing a severe economic recession and Lebanese youth are the most affected by this problem. Fresh graduates face the problem of unemployment and thus get frustrated because of their situation. Having nothing to do, they tend to become heavy drinkers and smokers. They might even do drugs. A recent study in Lebanon showed that there was an increase of 35% in the rate of youth criminals ranging from 15 to 25 years old involved in theft, drug addictions and gang fights. Although there were some attempts from the private sector in alleviating the state of Lebanese youth through sports and educational activities, the government did not do much in ameliorating this social problem. I find myself concerned about this issue.

The situation in our country is not as bad as we read in the country profiles, because we are an association who works in the Palestinian camps and the information is not always right, because there is a lot of false information. Yes we do have economic problems but youth are really involved in a good way in voluntary work, many are travelling for study purposes and some for emigration. But youth in Lebanon are active and do not like to be marginalised, so you can see many youth workers and volunteers in our association.

The problem of youth in our country is not different than it is in the whole world since it is a human problem irrelevant to the country we live in. But there are some private problems. First there are family problems. We see a lot of times that there is no mutual understanding between youths and their family which in turn leads to a lot of serious problems for youth who try to solve them in improper ways such as smoking and taking drugs. Another problem is unemployment, even for graduates, who find themselves in need to follow political parties who they do not believe in so that they can have a job. This is a common problem in all developing countries where corruption is widely spread. There is also a problem of marginalisation of youth when it comes to authoritative entities. Although youths play the greatest role in all the parties and organisations, they do not have any managing responsibilities in municipalities, official committees, etc. So here I am referring to youths between 14 and 25 of age, as defined by the United Nations, who lack self-confidence.

Lebanon has suffered from a 16-year civil war. Even though it ended in 1990, its side effects are still reaching up till today. In Lebanon, 55% of the Lebanese are under 25 years old. Thus, youth in Lebanon are still living under the effect of this war. Parts of these youths are divided according to their religion, and their loyalty is their religion, family or party, but rarely to their country. On the other hand, the hard economic conditions that Lebanon is passing through are increasing unemployment and making development work hard for youths, not to mention the difficult political conditions that Lebanon is passing through due to the tense regional security situation, the Israeli occupation and the Syrian presence which are taking youth away from participation in political and public life. But the hope remains throughout, seeing a number of rising youth leaders who are struggling against the current situations and asking for a positive change and engaging themselves and their peers in public life. And so we see more and more youth working and volunteering in NGOs and aiming at positive community youth development.

Lebanese youths suffer from many external conditions that affect their motivation and desire to make a difference in their own country. The majority of our youth today is immigrating due to the economic situation existing in the country so as to establish a better and stable future. Whereas those situated in Lebanon come from diverse backgrounds and confessions and are desperately struggling to develop reforms for the political, social, and economic situation of their country by taking part in several active NGOs and associations that promote humanitarian activities and encourage the fundamental aspects of dialogue and youth exchanges, the young Lebanese feel a sense of belonging in their community.

I come from Lebanon, but I will talk about youths in the Arab region, mainly about the shared conditions that Arab youths live. In the Arab region, youths constitute the largest age group among the Arab population, around 20% in many Arab countries. There are around 10 million unemployed Arab youths between the ages of 18 and 25. Arab youths have been lacking proper structures for organising activism, volunteerism, youth programmes, and networking opportunities. In general, Arab youths suffer from the unavailability of resources and opportunities for them to express their perspectives on policies and programmes that are affecting their current and future lives. There is a tremendous lack of support and programmes available for youths via governmental institutions. In many Arab countries, youths suffer the weakness of the education system and the high enrolment fees in private universities that could offer better quality programmes. In addition, youths suffer the impact of gender discrimination in many Arab societies. Many young females still struggle for their rights to education and equal civic participation. Yet, Arab youths represent a great potential for the region. They could represent a solid infrastructure for successful future Arab societies.

The situation of young people (14-24) in our country is not encouraging since they are facing many problems. First to mention are the old traditions and the social character, where we find ourselves bound to old and deteriorated customs, especially girls. Another problem is the marginalisation of youth in decision-making although they are the bases for all organisations in the land. There is also the lack of debate between youth who are absorbing the ideas of their parents and hence creating a distance with the other youth, especially when the parents are of different political positions who opposed each other during the Lebanese war. Last but not least is the religious factor which is tracing its track more than before.

Palestinian young people in particular are influenced by various factors and are put under hard pressures such as unemployment, leisure, social afflictions, illiteracy, immigration and others.

Youths are OK, but unemployment due to the recession is worrying everyone.

Young people in my country are active, clever and intelligent, but because of the economic situation in Lebanon they immigrate to find a job.

We are doing all our best in collaboration with other organisations in my country to strengthen the role of youth in social life, as well as to inform the largest number of them about all the topics of the Millennium Development Goals. I think that the situation of youth is very good now, comparing to what it was 14 years ago after the civil war we had. Almost every village or region has several organisations which take care of youth.

Educated, creative, imaginative thoughts, ability to improve themselves, expectations, and goals.

Youth in Lebanon are living a wide range of contradictions. Some of them are still haunted by the idea of war against Israel, some by the idea of civil war. Some of them are urging for internal peace. The number of youths interested in participation in public life is increasing, but slowly. Thus, a wide range of youth is still not interested in participation, and in being part of New Lebanon and taking responsibility. A lot of young people have not encountered anything else than their small cultures. Our work through Euro-Med should be to work to allow these young people the chance to encounter other cultures and other people, and to work with them to promote their participation in public life, and to replace the picture of war and hatred in the minds of youth with a picture of peace and love and help in introducing it to the minds of the upcoming generation of youth. We should be part in the change.

Lebanon has suffered from a 15-year civil war. Even though it ended in 1990, its side effects are still reaching up till today. In Lebanon, 55% of the Lebanese are under 25 years old. The economic and legal difficulties and social marginalisation are forcing young people to leave the country, and emigration by young people has reached alarming levels in recent years. Lebanese people have always been travellers and emigrants but now young people are leaving the country with no intention of returning. This phenomenon could empty the country of its youth. On the economic plane, 70% of Lebanese who emigrate do it for exclusively financial motives, hence the necessity to create new job opportunities in the country. Fresh graduates face the problem of unemployment and thus get frustrated of their situation. Having nothing to do, they tend to become heavy drinkers and smokers, they might even do drugs. A recent study in Lebanon showed that there was an increase of 35% in the rate of youth criminals in the 15 to 25 years old age range. These were involved in theft, drug addictions and gang fights. I find myself concerned about this issue.

Palestinians residing in Lebanon are faced with numerous economic and social difficulties and pressures. As the years passed since their uprooting and dispersal, their needs have increasingly become more acute. The situation of the Palestinian community in Lebanon, 390,498 of whom were registered with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) by mid-2003, is possibly the most tragic amongst all the Palestinian communities in the other host Arab countries (Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq). The Palestinians do not enjoy civil and social rights in Lebanon. This becomes evident when one considers that the Palestinians residing in Lebanon since 1948 are prohibited from working. The Palestinians are continuously experiencing displacement and dispersion to this day. The strife of the Palestinians in Lebanon becomes extremely unstable and insecure among other things. The Lebanese government has undertaken a plan to build roads and a highway network that will cut through the camps surrounding Beirut. Extremely restrictive security measures have been taken in the past few years around the Palestinian camps in Southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese youth below the age of 25 years, who constitutes more than half of the population, suffer from weak integration in the social environment and from the economic crisis. They are faced with unemployment due to lack of jobs, difficulty of getting into the work cycle, and difficulty of securing a house or a place to live. Furthermore, they are directly affected by the deterioration of the educational level and system, and the changing cultural context, which is leaving them helpless in front of the contradictory and changing norms around them.

Young people in my country are living in a very difficult situation because they cannot live their rights because of the government. The government is against youth propositions and ideas. But they are confronting this situation by different ways as youth groups and manifestations and publications.

Palestinians in Lebanon are denied their civil rights. As a result of that and other factors such as the civil war in Lebanon, cuts in funds, economic marginalisation and the government denying residence status, the socio-economic situation of the refugee community has deteriorated rapidly. Most families live in extreme poverty. The standard of education has declined and most youth do not even finish secondary school. Overcrowded classrooms, poor level of education, financial constraints and the Lebanese government denying access to more than 70 professions have contributed to that. Difficulties in finding jobs due to lack of skills or low access to jobs has also been a discouraging factor among youth. This has resulted in low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and depression. Most of the young do odd jobs to support their families or look for ways to leave the country. The situation has left them distraught and hopeless.

Young people in Lebanon like to be educated They like to participate in culture programmes. They want to have experiences in programmes too.

The system and the regime: Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. Its political system is based on the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers and a system of checks and balances due to its heterogeneous societal composition. The Government determines overall policy, appoints senior administrators and submits proposed legislation to Parliament. However, the executive power is held by the President (Maronite Christian) and the Council of Ministers headed by a Prime Minister (Sunnite Muslim). The Legislative Branch consists of a single-chamber Parliament of 128 members, half of whom are Christians, the other half are Muslims. In the last elections held in May-June 2005, Members were elected for four-year terms in regional ballots, with the number of members for each region determined on the basis of the size and religious affiliation of the population of each region, subject to an overall number of members for each religious community. The Parliament is headed by a Shiite Muslim. The main functions of the parliament are to propose and adopt laws and supervise government policy. Although deemed to be ‘˜managed in a satisfactory way’, the last legislative elections that took place in May-June 2005 were disturbed by several irregularities. The judicial system consists of one administrative court, the State Council Court (Conseil d’Etat) and civil courts, which include commercial courts and criminal courts. The Court of Cassation is the highest court of appeal for civil and commercial matters. Constitutional matters and conflicts relating to elections are referred to the Constitutional Council. Personal status matters are dealt with in religious affiliated courts. The Judiciary Council handles cases of political nature referred solely by the Government, and its sentences are un-appealed. The judges of the various courts are appointed by the government. All courts operate under the direct supervision of the ministry of justice. The Lebanese Constitution states that Lebanon is a parliamentary republic which is independent, united and internationally acknowledged sovereign state. It also confirms the Republic’s Arab identity and involvement in both the Arab League and the United Nations, as a founding and active member. Furthermore, the Constitution emphasizes the respect for freedom of speech and belief and the Republic’s commitment to human rights, parliamentary democracy, private ownership, free market economics and balanced regional development, and emphasizes the firm support for peaceful cohabitation between the various religious communities.

The Lebanese conflict: A combination of internal and external factors led to the outbreak of conflict in 1975. The regional instability and conflicting relations between neighbouring countries and the Palestinian armed forces contributed to destabilizing the domestic political and economic situation. Successive rounds of fighting took place, the Syrian invasion in 1976, aggravated by two Israeli military invasions in 1978 and 1982. The period of conflict witnessed a significant reduction of government authority, large losses in human lives, substantial physical and infrastructural damage, and a considerable immigration of skilled labour from the country. Following the end of military hostilities in 1990, military operations between the Israeli army and Lebanese military formations persisted only in the south of Lebanon until May 24, 2000, when the Israeli armed forces withdrew from Lebanon. Until this time, 2000 Israeli soldiers and 2000 soldiers of the Israeli auxiliary militia, Southern Lebanon Army (SLA), were controlling the ‘˜security zone’ in Southern Lebanon, which extended over nearly 10% of the Lebanese territory. After their progressive withdrawal from their positions, which occurred over a few days only, the Israeli army completed its withdrawal on May 24. Several hundred SLA soldiers fled with their families (6000 people in total) to Israel, where they were placed in refugee camps. The rest surrendered to different militias (Amal movement politically close to Syria, Hezbollah politically close to Iran and Syria, and the Syrian National Social Party (PSNS), who handed them over to the Lebanese authorities. Approximately 5000 Lebanese citizens have returned from Israel since 2000. Few weeks after the Israeli withdrawal, the Lebanese authorities sent a thousand-soldier armed force, composed of soldiers from the Interior Security Forces, ISF, and the Lebanese Army. The role of this armed force became more important during the second half of 2002, but the security of the liberated region still depends on two local forces: Amal movement and the Hezbollah. These two Shiite militias maintain a military presence uncontrolled by the Lebanese authorities in the Baalbeck region, Beirut Southern suburbs, and the rest of Southern Lebanon. This is justified by the Lebanese government and by the parties themselves as being a resistance movement against the disputed Shebaa Farms, a conglomeration of small farms at the Israel-Syrian-Lebanese border. Lebanon and Syria pretend Shebaa farms are Lebanese despite the fact that Syria did not complete the required documentation at the UN relevant departments to confirm the Lebanese property of the farms. The Lebanese government’s stand is based on old property documents confirming the Lebanese ownership of some of the farms. The UN stand is that Shebaa is a disputed land and was not covered by the UN resolution 425. Several Palestinian armed factions operate in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, but their activities are strictly limited to the camps. However, they are accused occasionally of subversive operations outside the camps and of harbouring Lebanese outlaws. In May 1977, the Arab League agreed to send the Arab Deterrent force to restore security in Lebanon. This force was mainly composed of Syrian troops of 35,000 to 40,000 soldiers that indulged in the Lebanese war, and persisted after the Taif settlement. Until April 26, 2005 Syrian troops spread throughout the Lebanese territory (except Southern Lebanon) supported by thousands of intelligence agents who intervene in Lebanon’s political, economic, social, and judiciary life. The opposition to the Syrian role in Lebanon, limited to some Christian parties until last year, culminated in September 2004 when Syria imposed the unconstitutional extension of President Lahoud’s mandate for another three years, against the will of the majority of political powers, including Late PM Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jumblat and Christian opposition. Just one day before the parliament voted the constitutional amendment (3-09-2004), the UN security council issued resolution 1559 which calls for free presidential elections, the withdrawal of the Syrian forces, disarming the Lebanese militias (including Hezbollah) and the deployment of the Lebanese army in the South. Subsequently, Lebanon witnessed a series of tragic events starting, on October 2, 2004, by an attempt to kill Minister Marwan Hamadeh, a close ally of the Druze leader Walid Jumblat, and of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. On February 14, 2005, a huge explosion in downtown Beirut killed Hariri and seven of his bodyguards, in addition to eight other civilians. Former Minister Basil Fuleyhan, another ally of Hariri, was also seriously injured in the blast and later on passed away in a specialized Hospital in Paris. Hariri’s assassination resulted in continuous sit-ins and demonstrations organized by the opposition parties. On March 5, Syrian President Bashar Assad announced the withdrawal of the Syrian troops which was completed on 26 April 2005. Shortly afterwards Lebanon witnessed two political assassinations through car bombs: Samir Kassir, journalist and political activist, and Georges Hawi, former secretary general of the communist party, as well as the attempt of assassination of Elias El Murr, minister of defence, of Journalist May Chidiac, and 8 bomb explosions in commercial/residential centres mainly in Christians residential and commercial areas reflecting a clear decline in security in Lebanon. As per UN resolution 1595, Harriri’s assassination is investigated by an international judicial committee which has full mandate to arrest any Lebanese or international suspect. The investigative committee arrested in August 2005 the 4 Major Generals who used to maintain orders in Lebanon during the Lahoud Syrian sponsored regime.

The economic situation: Lebanon has been going through a socio-economic crisis that many independent experts consider as explosive. Damage to infrastructure and physical assets due to the conflict amounted to USD 25 billion, according to United Nations estimates, with none of the principal sectors emerging from the conflict unscathed. The dearth in Government revenue and the growing expenditure on public services led to large and rapidly growing Government budget deficits. These, along with the prevailing political uncertainty, plunged the Lebanese economy into a vicious cycle of large budget deficits leading to monetary expansion and inflation, which translated into dollarisation of the economy and capital flight. This in turn led to a dramatic depreciation of the value of the Lebanese Pound and further inflation. According to the UNDP Human Development rating, Lebanon’s income per capita is USD 4,308. In one year, Lebanon fell back 10 ranks, from 65th to 75th in its level of human development. According to a UNDP report on human development published in September 2002, unemployment levels are at 10% of men in Lebanon between 25 and 29 years old. This age range has been the most strongly affected by emigration. The unemployment rate has increased sharply due to an escalating recession. According to a study conducted by Saint-Joseph University and published in 2002, the unemployment rate is 11.5% among people aged between 15 and 64 years old. It is higher among young people aged between 18 and 35 years old (35%). These young people represent 71% of unemployed population. Male unemployment rate is 9.3% and female unemployment rate has increased from 7.2% in 1997 to 18.2% in 2001.