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The Future of Lebanon

2011 March 16


Scenes from the protest against the sectarian system of governance in Beirut. (from


“Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatest which does not bow before children.”

~Kahlil Gibran

SFCG has worked in Lebanon since 2008, focusing primarily on children and youth. There are deep divisions in Lebanese society, and working with young people gives us the chance to influence their way of thinking towards greater open-mindedness at a younger age, when they are less indoctrinated into separateness and stereotyping. Further we believe in the ability of youth to make real change in their communities and we have a long commitment to help them acquire the skills they need to do so in a positive way.

The wave of change that has swept through North Africa and the Middle East had been largely lead by young people. Unlike other countries where uprisings have occurred, however, Lebanon is a democracy and enjoys greater freedoms so the same kind of unrest is unlikely to ferment there. While unemployment is high, Lebanese youth are actually a major export and they remit money home.

At the same time, the regional protests have inspired some young Lebanese to reopen the debate around their “confessional” model of government (which requires the president to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim). While this reflects Lebanese demographics, with each faith accounting for about a third of the population, many feel it only emphasizes sectarian lines and in recent days they have demonstrated against the status quo.

For SFCG, working on track II or higher levels of diplomacy that would affect such constitutional changes is unrealistically idealistic, at present, because the divisions run so deep. Currently, alternative systems are difficult to identity and because the culture of separateness remains unchanged, people would likely continue to vote along sectarian lines even without the confessional model in place. Without a shift in the underlying culture, minorities might feel totally disenfranchised. Therefore, we work with youth in order to effect those shifts.

For three years we have worked with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) to create a culture of listening and problem solving amongst teachers. To date we have trained over 400 teachers and counselors from over 50 schools and local community groups. We’ll expand to 40 additional schools this spring.

We recently completed the “One Lebanon Youth Movement” project which aims to instill a culture of civic activism and community involvement amongst high school students. The project culminated in a summit attended by youth as well as public officials, social entrepreneurs and representatives from NGO’s. All participants signed a charter that commits the youth signatories to be active social citizens and the leaders to engage and consult them as much as they are able. While the youth gained valuable conflict resolution training, they also had excellent networking opportunities with the various NGO representatives. A few of the participants will be consulted on the next season of The Team in Lebanon to help develop a curriculum for the series that resonates with young people. One of the main issues that came up in conversations with youth was corruption associated with inherited positions.


Breakout session during One Lebanon project



In addition to The Team, we also air a series that focuses on a younger demographic, Kilna Bil Hayy (All of Us in the Neighborhood) which focuses on six children from different religious and ethnic backgrounds and follows them as get to know each other and learn about each other’s differences. . The first season was very well received and the second is currently airing on the main local TV channel, LBC. Our work with Kilna Bil Hayy has grown to be a multi-layered peace education program. DVD’s of the show, along with discussion guides, have been distributed to schools across of the country. Furthermore, we have trained teachers from over 100 public schools in peace education.

Working with Lebanon’s young people is one of the most effective ways to prepare the ground for the positive social changes that will help prevent a return to sectarian violence.


Learn more about our work in Lebanon here.

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