Tunis, 26 March 2016 - Wided Bouchamaoui, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with the Tunisian “Dialogue Quartet”, joined today in Tunis with young leaders from eight Arab countries in calling for opening up dialogue with Europe and the Southern Mediterranean.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the landmark Young Arab Voices “Debate to Action” Forum in Tunis, Bouchamaoui said: “The best message to send to the West is our pride of our youth, our unity, our skills to present dialogue. Our message is clear ‘We are ready for dialogue’.” Bouchamaoui underlined in her speech the centrality of youth in facing common regional challenges of extremism and radicalisation, and commended the work of Young Arab Voices. “Our future rests in the hands of young women and men,” stated Bouchamaoui, adding that “we need to invest in listening to youth and giving them the opportunity to be present in civil society which is the best way to fight radicalisaiton.”
The Young Arab Voices “Debate to Action” Regional Forum, organised by the Anna Lindh Foundation and British Council in partnership with the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), brought together more than 80 young debaters from eight Arab countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.
Prior to the intervention of Mrs Bouchamaoui, two of the alumni from Young Arab Voices delivered a statement urging for opening up dialogue across Europe and the Mediterranean, which read:
“We need more opportunities for this kind of debate. It will reduce incentives to extremist voices and reduce the space for intolerance that is feeding terrorism. It will allow us understand each other better, and to build a circle of dialogue and coalition of common values. We want to involve many millions more voices in this process, all those silent majority who are involved in positive action but do not find yet their voices heard.”
The statement also acknowledged the Brussels attacks that took place on the eve of the regional forum in Tunisia, and underlined the rejection of such acts along with similar acts in recent weeks across the region in Ben Gardane, Aden, Ankara, and the devastating killing that took place yesterday at al-Shuhadaa stadium in Iraq. It concluded with:
“We are a generation with the creativity, tools, energy and ideas to overcome the critical and common challenges facing societies to the north and south of the Mediterranean. Dialogue is the way forward. We call on all relevant actors in the region to open up this dialogue. We are ready to work together on such innovative solutions.”
The Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Ambassador Hatem Atallah, told the audience of debaters: “We take a very strong message from you all today. You have chosen the way forward and I am confident that you will achieve a lot. You are ready for dialogue.” Ambassador Atallah went on to say: “We have made it clear over the last days that the Anna Lindh Foundation and partners are in this process for the long-term and see our partnership with youth as a priority investment for the next years to come. The Young Arab Voices “Debate to Action” initiative has been particularly successful because it responds to the appetite from youth across the region to creative productive solutions to the problems facing their societies. It is now the moment to connect this debate across the Mediterranean and reinforce a dialogue with young people to the north and south of the region who have shared challenges to face and a shared future to build.”
The “Debate to Action” forum was sponsored by the British Foreign Office (FCO) as part of a strategic research and development project led by the Anna Lindh Foundation on behalf of a consortium of partners (British Council, Chatham House, Consult and Design International, and In Place of War of the University of Manchester). The Anna Lindh Foundation is co-funded by the European Union and the 42 Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).