From the Arab Spring to long-term support for better governance
Voices Against Corruption Middle East and North Africa Forum
We have all been witness to the Arab Spring that started in 2010 and the drastic changes that have been taking place throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region since. The motivations behind the movement were many and there is yet more change to come, but we can speak for the Global Youth Anti-Corruption (GYAC) when we say we are behind this movement which has called for greater transparency and social accountability, so there can be more inclusive governance and more sustainable development for the region’s people in times to come. It is to support this vision of inclusive governance and sustainable development, in which youth will drive the reform agenda that a GYAC Regional Forum will be held with youth from the MENA region in Beirut, Lebanon, on April 26-27, 2012.
Many of the youth-led revolutions of the “Arab Spring” emerged from common grounds. The high levels of corruption, autocratic political systems, high unemployment rates (around 30%), and high levels of education led to social movements for structural change and more inclusion by, and for youth in the MENA region. As a result, a number of governments in the Arab World are undergoing significant transformations, which has created a space for improvement within a more fragile and unstable environment than ever before. Indeed, now that there is a democratic trend in several of the countries that have undergone these revolutions, the youth need to be equipped with the tools and the skills to help address the challenges caused by these incomplete revolutions more than ever. They must be able to contribute to systematic reforms that will ensure stability and good governance. This situation is an opportunity for civil society to be more active and create effective and empowered citizen participation.
The GYAC Network has the capacity to help foster this demand for better governance in a way that suits the MENA region’s needs and the actors driving the change there. The “Arab Spring” was characterized by an extensive use of social media, instantaneous citizens’ reporting, youth popular committees, an increased sense of awareness about corruption, and by the use of arts to support the cause (including music, caricatures, and movies). These tools and approaches can be found throughout the GYAC Network, and its members devise and use them to achieve the kind of change the youth in MENA are striving for. Indeed, the young citizens of MENA who are less than 30 years of age constitute 70% of the Arab region’s population and they are the driving force behind the call for reforms. They are the part of the population with the most vested interests in change and to whom the GYAC Network would be the most appealing to. GYAC could help them fill the gaps in their knowledge and find the appropriate tools and approaches to have the impact they need, by helping them develop the strategies to achieve governance reform, and connecting them with its own members going through that process, or who have completed it. The GYAC Network can play a key role in empowering the young activists of MENA to prepare the ground for youth-based and youth-led Civil Society Organizations (CSO).
It is within that context and to strengthen its presence in the MENA region that GYAC is organizing a two (2) day forum in Beirut, Lebanon, on April 26-27, 2012, in which the Network will be represented by its Global Coordinating Body (GCB), to connect it with youth in MENA and leverage its strengths to help build their capacity. This event will be the product of the collaboration between the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), the Global Youth Anti-Corruption, and the World Bank Institute. This forum will bring together the Global Coordinators of GYAC and youth representatives from the MENA region to serve as a catalyst for raising awareness against corruption, help them develop the tools and approaches best suited for that purpose in the region, and empower them to take the lead in mobilizing their people for change. These youth will become the points of contact upon which the GYAC-MENA network will be expanded in the region, helping them mobilize and reach out to others and their organizations.
Stay tuned for more on this GYAC! You’ll soon be joined by more youth from MENA and not only will they strengthen our own voice clamoring for more transparency and social accountability for better governance, but we will be able to help them build their capacity to achieve that.
Sarah Touma (LTA) & the GYAC CU