Université Saint-Joseph & FNF Lebanon and Syria launch Model Youth Parliament
Universite Saint Joseph (USJ) Student Life Department in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) Lebanon and Syria launched the youth parliament simulation at the Lebanese Parliament, where students from across academic faculties were randomly assigned to nine political blocs to discuss and vote on four draft bills in four parliamentary committees: women’s right to pass on the Lebanese nationality, waste management, abolition of the sponsorship system for migrant domestic workers, and censorship. The parliamentary blocs were formed according to the political distribution of parties in the current Lebanese parliament. The ideology and background of each political bloc assigned to the student deputies will serve as a starting point for their roles, interests and strategies in the debate and voting for each draft bill.
At the opening of the simulation, 128 students took their seats in Parliament to represent the political reality. President of USJ Professor Salim Daccashe s.j, Rector of USJ gave an introductory speech in which he considered that “citizenship does not convey itself and does not express its existence and its efforts without parliament and without the legislative work carried out by this council. At the core of Parliament’s duties is fulfilling citizens’ aspirations; once this is done, a country and the sense of belonging to it is satisfied.”
Professor Daccashe also added “When we ask about the responsibilities and duties of the Parliament in Lebanon, we recognize the role of the Parliament as essential to the integrity of the work of the state, its institutions, its land and its people.”
"It is now your turn as youth and as university students of USJ in Beirut, when you represent diverse and even opposing political views as parliamentarians, to be attentive to the function of Parliament and to monitor the work being carried out in this institution from policymaking to mechanisms for accountability,” Professor Daccashe continued.
Dr. Riad Ghannam, Chairperson of Parliamentary Committees in the Lebanese Parliament then proceeded to explain the core functions of Parliament by giving students an overview of the key duties.
FNF Lebanon and Syria Head of Office Mr. Dirk Kunze, whose office is partnering with USJ for the first time under the framework of this project, also spoke to the students about his own experience in the German Parliament “I have spent 17 years of my working life at different functions in the German Parliament. I started to work for the parliamentary administration in Bonn, then moved my department to Berlin and then worked for a parliamentary group in Brussels. I have studied parliamentary traditions and customs worldwide. So all in all I have spent many years in and around many different parliaments and I can tell you, seeing parliamentary culture and parliamentary spirit in action is mesmerizing.”
Kunze added that "In a democracy, here is nothing more important than being a Member of Parliament. A Member of Parliament represents the people and forms the laws that shape our reality.” He ended his speech by encouraging the students who will now simulate real life politics by saying “In the coming weeks, it is on you to strive for the right answer, to fight with words, to find allies and to make things happen.”
Coordinator of the Student Life Department at USJ, Mrs. Gloria Abdo then concluded the presentations by saying “For the fourth time in a row we will meet in the framework of youth citizenship programs and activities that are aiming at promoting democratic values and civic engagement, the same values of freedom and citizenship that our university strives for.” She also added that “Parliamentary simulation is a training on citizenship by all means; you will experience dialogue, teamwork, and debate, you will defend political views that you may not agree with but this will certainly enable you to discover and engage with opposing views.”
Abdo finally endorsed the students by saying “I can now safely say that we are at the doorsteps of an enriching journey for active and effective citizenship!”
Seeing parliamentary culture and parliamentary spirit in action is mesmerizing!