Model Youth Parliament program held with FNF Lebanon and Syria

Feature05.03.2020Lea Choueifaty

Perhaps February 28th was a normal day for you, but for 100 USJ (Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth) students and the team at FNF Lebanon and Syria, it was quite an extraordinary one. On this day, the students participated in the Model Youth Parliament program and changed their identities while embracing new ones for the course of four days. They were not students anymore; they forgot their political affiliations, their university majors, and embarked on a journey of being Lebanese Members of Parliament with a political and ideological background they did not choose by conviction but by chance. 

The program was opened by FNF MENA Regional Director, Mr. Dirk Kunze and USJ’s Student Life Coordinator, Ms. Gloria Abdo. The participants were then initiated to Empathy and Democracy by Ms. Johanna Bou Rjeili from the Professional Center of Mediation at USJ, who organized a number of exercises getting them ready for what was going to happen next, the draw of new identities.

The highlight of that day was the presence of Lebanese MP, Elias Hankach, who introduced the students to the basics of parliamentary work and shared with them his experiences that assisted their experiences for the next coming days. During the first three days, the new MPs debated, negotiated and lobbied in favor of the amendments they want to vote for in parliament. They were assisted by USJ professors and Alumni, as well as experts in various fields, who shared their knowledge with the young MPs in order for them to do the job right. 

The last working day, was concluded with a Gala dinner, where our new MPs enjoyed their time, but also continued the negotiations informally. After all, they were preparing for the big day. 

On March 2nd, at 9:00 a.m. the 100 MPs were ready for the plenary session that was presided by MP Elias Hankach who played the role of the President of the Chamber. The “ordre du jour” included discussions about the Amnesty law, Banking Secrecy law, Anti-Corruption law and Electoral law. The debate was heated and each political party was able to convey their points of view and either encourage or discourage other MPs to vote for specific laws. 

Finally, a certificate ceremony took place at FNF’s Garage664. 20 participants received an excellence certificate for their engagement and hard work during the program, from which the five most distinguished participants were selected to go on a visiting program to Berlin, Germany to learn more about the German parliament, meet German parliamentarians and recieve an overview of how other parliaments work in practice.