One of the main goals of the “Contact 2 Participation” project is to re-establish cooperation between countries that have witnessed a recent decline in youth participation and exchange of volunteers. However, cooperation can rarely be established without sufficient knowledge about the partners and their respective situations. We have therefore asked some of the participants of the seminar in Laguépie to describe the challenges in their home regions. What are the particular problems certain geographic areas need to face when it comes to voluntary work, active participation and social inclusion? What are the advantages and disadvantages of their social surroundings? Which methods do they use to solve their problems? What do they see as the most important goals in their work?
We are hereby bringing you a text written by Suha Ayyash, representative of “I-Dare for Sustainable Development”, Jordan. We are often informed about the cooperations established between Arabic and European countries. But what about the situation exclusively in the Arab areas? Do Arabic organisations cooperate with each other or are they necessary oriented towards other regions? What are the problems they face? Due to the authenticity of the text, we would be happy if it served as a source of new information not only for the active participants of the “Contact 2 Participation” project, but for the public in general.
“In the Arabic region, we have youth and voluntary work, we have supporting systems and culture as well, but each country has its specific social context. Types of activities and aims are all related to the operating organisation.
With regard to the exchanges between Arabs; we have a number of projects that are currently going on. Some of them are youth/school exchanges, others are 2-3 days seminars or conferences. But the questions remain; how often do these activities occur? And in which framework? And is it institutionalized? And what sort of follow-up is done? And are we having common priorities to work with?
Another question is also crucial to ask; which sort of Arabic-Arabic collaboration? Between the countries from Maghreb and Mashreq? And what about the Gulf countries?… (where the realities and the priorities are very different).
On the regional level we have a number of supporting systems that encourage and provide financial support for activists, artists, volunteers in order to move within the Arabic world (such as Safar Fund and Al-Mawred which is now suspended due to new regulations in Egypt). Moreover, ALF launched 3 calls so far to encourage exchanges between young professionals within the EuroMed region. Some of the big organisations in the region, such as Fiker, WISE Education, Injaz Al-Arab and Naseej, also held annual seminars .
The thing is that most of these initiatives are supporting individuals and it is very rare to see systemized youth exchanges or training courses for Arabs with a goal of bringing them together. In Jordan for instance, we have KAYA, which is a high-profile financial award that is given on a yearly basis in order to motivate young Arab activists.
In my opinion, the two factors that are not enabling strong programmes for Arabs related to youth and community work and exchange among themselves are – lack of funding and lack of institutionalized programmes.
We have a couple of European funded programmes that are supporting or bringing Arabs together, notably “The young arab voices”. This is a debate programme run by the British Council which was providing funds for the period of three years ending with the year 2014. The others are ActionAid programmes for MENA youth.