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Young Algerian Voices aspire to connect their debate with regional peers, at the conclusion of landmark youth forum in Oran

Sun, 20/03/2016 - 11:14 -- Regina Salanova

Oran, 20 March 2016 - A call for increased exchange among young dialogue actors of the two shores of the Mediterranean was among the key points underlined at yesterday’s concluding session of the first national debate competition hosted by the municipality of Oran in Algeria.

Taking place as part of “Young Arab Voices” (YAV), the flag-ship debate programme co-founded in 2011 by the Anna Lindh Foundation and British Council, the debate competition brought together more than eighty emerging young leaders from debate clubs in thirteen different municipalities. During two intensive days of practising debate, diverse topics were addressed, among them: civic education, women empowerment, language teaching in the national education curricula, and the impact of current regional crisis and conflicts on societies to the south and north of the Mediterranean.

The final debate event took place with the presence of high-officials from the partner institutions, as well as a representation from the city of Oran including the Vice-President of the Peoples’ Assembly, Satiha Bourokba, who underlined the importance of the activity for the city and how inspiring it was to see “young people coming together to play such a central, positive role”. 

The British Ambassador to Algeria, Andrew Noble, who traveled to Oran for the final debate, told the participants: “I am truly overwhelmed by what you have achieved, and by the quality and passion of the debates. The energy, ideas and capacity on display today demonstrate the full potential of this country,” adding that “It is essential to ensure the capacity to listen effectively is part of the skills set for this next generation of leaders.” Ambassador Noble also paid tribute to the partners backing “YAV”, stating “We are really grateful to the Anna Lindh Foundation and British Council for creating this unique space for dialogue and debate.”

Paul Walton, speaking at the closing event in Oran on behalf of the Anna Lindh Foundation headquarters, said: “The ‘Debate to Action’ research carried out during the last six months provides evidence that among the YAV community there is a growing appetite to engage in cultural dialogue with peers in Europe and the wider world,” highlighting that “There is a need today to create the space for young people from both sides of the Mediterranean to come together around common values to build alternative narratives to negative trends in the region and to work together on solutions to shared transnational challenges.”

Maloud Salhi, Head of the Algerian National Network of the Anna Lindh Foundation, also stressed the importance of promoting a culture of dialogue and debate at the local and Euro-Mediterranean level, stating "There is such potential in the next chapter of the programme to open and increase spaces for a real exchange in the region," adding that "The strength and quality of the Algerian youth is a main opportunity for the promotion of the renewed Euro-Mediterranean dialogue." 

The Director of the British Council in Algeria, Martin Dowry, said: “It is evident that among our debate community there is a real desire to connect to the outside world. Institutions such as the British Council and Anna Lindh Foundation, working in the domain of long-term trust-building and cultural understanding, must be ready to support this aspiration and ensure young people have the capacities, tools and opportunities to come together to tackle issues of common concern and exchange ideas on how to positively build prosperous societies.”

The winner of the Arabic final debate was the YAV “Tamkeen Club” from Djelfa. The debate competition was organised in partnership with the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) who provided experts in debate moderation to support the final judging process. The winners of the national event in Oran will now be invited to Tunis for the #Debate2Action Regional Youth Forum which will bring together more than 100 national debaters and emerging young leaders from across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine.

The Anna Lindh Foundation is co-funded by the European Union and the 42 Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), and the “Debate to Action” strategic research and development project is funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).