The Road to Lebanon’s Future in Focus

Sep 20, 2017

For the fifth consecutive year, UNDP Lebanon held the Social Good Summit (SGS) 2017 in Beirut, at Teatro Verdun on Tuesday. Around 300 attendees arrived at the Summit, among them university students, activists, journalists, opinion leaders, and youth from different parts around Lebanon.

The Social Good Summit is a worldwide event that occurs each year as a part of United Nation’s Global Goals Week, which aims to address the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The theme of this year’s Summit was Future in Focus - 2030 Now. Catering to the Lebanese community, the SGS in Lebanon this year - shed light on three essential topics: human rights, youth citizenship/participation, and successful entrepreneurship.

“Think about this. What type of a world would you want to live in by 2030? While 2030 is 13 years away, the United Nations has long been investing its efforts into transforming the SDGs from mere goals to actual achievements,” said Philippe Lazzarini, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, at the Summit commencement.

Featuring opinion leaders with expertise in the conference’s topics – the Summit was carried out through speakers’ talks and open-ended discussions. Ziad Abdel Samad, Instructor of Human Rights and Citizenship at the Lebanese American University and Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development - moderated the event and introduced the different problems facing human rights in Lebanon ranging from mere social contract to xenophobia.

A short movie entitled A Place, presented by Haytham Chammas, the Karama Beirut Human Rights Film Festival Director - kick started the debate on societal discrimination. The main message of the movie was the immigration repercussions of an Arab refugee in Europe. Complimenting the topic, Patricia Khodr, a senior journalist at L’Orient le Jour, narrated a heart-warming story of a Syrian residing in Lebanon, which encompassed the young boy’s experience with discrimination that led him to master the Lebanese accent to avoid being discriminated against.

Dayana El Baba, the Senior Programs Coordinator at Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), spoke about the significance of participation and the roles youth could uptake in Lebanese elections ranging from citizenship to monitoring. Poliana Geha, the former President of AUB’s Secular Club, spoke about youth activism and citizenship at university elections. Geha also shared Secular Club’s successful experience during 2014 AUB elections, where they were the only non-sectarian student club. “Even though many of you would not want to take part in university elections, you need to be curious about those who represent you at the student government,” she added.

Amal Charif, a 2016 Beirut Madinati candidate, concluded the second part of the Summit with her story and the challenges she faced as a handicapped running for the elections. “More efforts should be put to accommodate people with special needs during elections,” added Charif. She ended her talk with the successes of Beirut Madinati and the hope it had planted among the Lebanese yearning for reform and change.

Joining via Skype was Sobhiya Najjar, a journalist and news reporter at LBCI. Najjar spoke briefly about the different start-ups students have initiated in Lebanon, and about the available opportunities for young entrepreneurs. Following Najjar – Jamil Ballout, the Business Analyst of the Smart Trashcan Project, talked about his story of how he started his start-up after graduating AUB. “What the Smart Trashcan aims to do is sort trash from the source, and such project is unlike any other waste-management project because it solely aims on managing trash from the start,” explained Ballout.

From the mechanism of sorting waste to trusted child care on demand. Lara Ghibril talked about her child care service start-up – Jaleesa. “We have already provided 4,000 babysitting hours, and our business is still in its initial stages,” said Ghibril, the Partnerships Director at Jaleesa. The third section of the Summit ended with the success story of Zero Waste Management by Ziad Abi Chaker, the founder of Cedar Environmental and the zero-waste program aiming to eliminate landfill waste in Lebanon’s municipalities.

With open-ended discussions following every topic, the Summit witnessed a great degree of insightful ideas, viewpoints, stories and concerns. It wasn’t only the ‘full house’ that indicated the success of the event, but rather the ongoing discussions that took place and the Q&A sessions with the speakers. Most attendees mentioned the need for longer discussion timings, and for more events of such sort to take place throughout the year.

Indeed, at the heart of the Summit – resided Lebanon’s Future in Focus.

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