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Cablegate: Lebanon: Youth Become Politically Active Through

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PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHLB #0378/01 0721320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121320Z MAR 08 ZFF5
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2312
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 2046
RHMFISS/USCENTCOM SPECIAL HANDLING MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1284

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 000378

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH/YERGER/GAVITO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID LE PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: LEBANON: YOUTH BECOME POLITICALLY ACTIVE THROUGH
MEPI SHADOW GOVERNMENT PROGRAM


SUMMARY
---------

1. (U) Lebanon's Youth Shadow Government (YSG) is a Middle
East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) funded program designed to
place college level individuals in the different GOL
ministries to serve as shadow ministers. EmbOffs held a
reception to welcome the participants in December 2007 and
have been following the group's progress. The shadow
ministers are excited about participating in this program.
However, a number of the participants have expressed their
pessimism about the ability of politically active youth to
change the current political situation in Lebanon. The
majority of the shadow ministers felt that they could not be
taken seriously in the field of politics without being a
member of one of the main political parties. The new
ministers added that many Lebanese youth were leaving Lebanon
due to the inability to get jobs without relying on political
connections. They all pointed out that this was the primary
appeal of the YSG; it provides them with a way to be
politically active, but independent of the powerful and
archaic political machines in Lebanon. End Summary.

YOUTH SHADOW GOVERNMENT PROGRAM
---------

2. (U) The MEPI funded Youth Shadow Government (YSG),
provides Lebanese public and private university students with
an opportunity to experience the Lebanese democratic
political process in action. YSG encourages political
involvement while promoting paradigms of good governance,
anti-corruption and public transparency. The shadow
government monitors political developments occurring on the
national level and acts as an unofficial watchdog over the
government's performance. This entails monitoring each
ministry, explaining to their university colleagues and the
public at large to the government's performance, and debating
alternate options for the decisions that were made by the
government.

3. (U) MEPI's local partner for this program is the Nahar Ash
Shabab Foundation, which was founded after the December 2005
assassination of MP Gebran Tueni, Member of Parliament and
editor/publisher of the An-Nahar newspaper. His daughter
Nayla and other members of the Tueni family formed this
foundation to honor Tueni's belief in the potential of the
younger generations to bring about change. A leader of the
Cedar Revolution, he began plans for the Shadow Government
program, which came to fruition after his death.

LAUNCHING THE SECOND YEAR OF THE YSG
-----------

4. (U) During a reception organized by MEPI Emboffs, the
2007-2008 shadow ministers expressed their excitement at
being involved in the YSG. However, many of the shadow
ministers told MEPI Emboffs that they were dismayed at the
inability of politically active youth to escape from
Lebanon's traditional party politics - a model which they do
not believe reflects the interests of the majority of their
peers. The YSG programs contains a number of elements
designed to empower these young leaders. Since the beginning
of the current session in November 2007, YSG members have
attended training sessions discussing teamwork, political
institutions, leadership and negotiation skills, report
writing, public budgeting, and persuasive communication.

5. (U) Though the current political deadlock in Lebanon has
affected the YSG's range of "shadow activities" with the
ministers, the YSG continues to meet as a group weekly to
discuss the Siniora cabinet's upcoming agenda items and to
comment or debate the issues. YSG cabinet "decisions" are
published in the An-Nahar newspaper's weekly supplement
devoted to youth issues. A few YSG members have shared with
us their duties in the ministries. At the Ministry of
Education, the YSG participant is working with a network of
NGO's to help organize awareness sessions on drugs, violence
and discrimination in a variety of Lebanese public schools.
At the Minister of Economy, the YSG participant is working to
reactivate and expand the Consumer Protection Department
which is severely understaffed. In support of this
initiative, the Ministry has agreed to form a work-study
program for university students to focus on this issue.


BEIRUT 00000378 002 OF 002


6. (U) The YSG is also becoming more well-known in Lebanon.
They have held several media events in the last few months,
including a two-hour appearance in February on NTV's show
"Al-Fassad." An-Nahar continues to devote space to the
program's achievements in their weekly youth supplement.

FRANK TALK WITH THE YSG MEMBERS
--------------

7. (U) During their meeting with EmbOffs, this group spoke
confidently on a wide range of topics. Ramzi Teeni, the
shadow Agriculture Minister, said there is a lack of
motivation and increased pessimism that persists amongst
politically active youth in Lebanon these days. The youth
cannot be independent. Sireen Abu Zein, the shadow
Archeology Minister, said youth not aligned with big
political parties in Lebanon do not want to become involved
in politics because they do not have the ability to make an
impact. Abdel Aziz Saad, the shadow Justice Minister, added
that the political parties do not even allow the youth within
there own parties, to have their voices heard and that there
is an inability to criticize the existing leadership of
political parties.

8. (U) Razi Hajj, the shadow Economy and Trade Minister, said
that over half of the educated Lebanese youth live and work
abroad, mainly in the Gulf, while others prefer to attend
college in the U.S. and Europe. Saad added that the
Christian/Lebanese youth living in the Gulf especially
dislike the expat lifestyle there because the social night
life cannot compare to Beirut. They are only there to find
jobs and earn money. Hajj said this effect was the result of
the political instability that exists in Lebanon and the
inability to be independent politically and to find
non-politically connected jobs. Hajj noted that most jobs
available to young professionals are gained by what is
commonly known as "wasta" or a connection of sorts with
someone who has the ability to get the applicant the position
he or she wants. According to Hajj, these connections are
mostly political in nature. Zein, who lives in the Chouf
region, offered her own personal example. When she applied
for a job and went for an interview, the person conducting
the interview told Zein to obtain a letter written by her
father that has the recommendation of the dominant political
party in the Chouf region, Progressive Socialist Party leader
Walid Jumblatt.

9. (U) The youth at this event said they hoped the YSG
program would be a way to become politically active without
having to align themselves with one of the main Lebanese
political parties. Jessica Azar, the Youth and Sports
Minister described the YSG group as being autonomous. Azar
also said the majority of the YSG ministers want Lebanese
youth to put Lebanon and being Lebanese first, before their
sectarian community, which is not the case today. The youth
shadow ministers want some type of shared common goals,
according to Azar.

COMMENT
-------

10. (U) This current group of shadow minister is genuinely
excited and ready to get involved as much as possible in the
day to day operations of their individual ministries. Many
of them bounce ideas off one another to discuss "best
practices" at their individual ministries. Through their
roles as monitors and liaisons between the community and the
GOL ministries, the YSG ministers want to make a positive
change in Lebanon without getting involved in the
partisan/sectarian politics that plagues Lebanon today.

11. (U) The local partner, Nahar Ash Shabab Foundation, has
proved to be an effective and responsible partner. Nayla
Tueni has expressed her personal commitment to this program
and looks forward to expanding the concept to include a
"Shadow Parliament" in the future. Post strongly supports
continued and even increased funding for this MEPI
initiative. End Comment.
SISON

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