Cairo, 30th April 2012. A special BBC Arabic debate was hosted today at the Arab League Headquarters, next to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, involving the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, H.E. Dr Nabil El Araby, and youth from Arab societies experiencing processes of political transition and reform. With the support of the Anna Lindh Foundation and the British Council, the event brought together 35 representatives of the Young Arab Voices debating programme from several countries, including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco and Palestine, as well as live inputs from youth from Syria, Yemen and Kuwait through a new media platform.
Speaking during the debate with the Arab youth panel, Secretary General El Araby said: “My ambition as Secretary-General is to convince the States to introduce the reforms we need to revitalise the Arab League and pan-Arab cooperation. In this regard, young people have an important role to play and must already begin thinking and debating about the next generation of regional institutions in response to the new demands of the citizens.”
Key issues raised by the Arab youth through the debate included: reform of the Arab League to be more effective and play a central role on the international stage; security and the role of the League in intervening in conflicts of the region; the role of the League in supporting countries going through the process of democratic transition; the voice of youth in contributing to the revitalisation of regional institutions and the establishment of an elected Arab parliament; and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a barrier to regional cooperation and pan-Arab identity.
BBC Arabic moderated the debate, which was broadcasted online to millions of people across the region and that stimulated debate through social media with the hashtag #LASdebate. In addition, new media group Soilya provided VoxPop videos on pan-Arab issues, which have been filmed during the last month with youth from countries including in Syria, Kuwait and Yemen.
The special dialogue forum has been organised in the framework of ‘Young Arab Voices’, the joint debating programme of the British Council and Anna Lindh Foundation, co-financed through the UK government’s Arab Partnership Initiative. Launched amidst the Arab uprisings of 2011, Young Arab Voices focuses on training young people in debating and advocacy skills, and has already led to the establishment of new debating clubs in schools, universities, cultural centres and NGOs across the Arab region.