26.03.2016 - The following statement was delivered today by alumni of the Young Arab Voices debate programme at the close of a landmark regional forum taking place in Tunis, Tunisia:
"At the end of three intense days of debate we say it is more urgent than ever to create new opportunities for opening up dialogue across Europe and the Mediterranean. The day before our gathering here in Tunisia we heard about the Brussels attacks that led to the tragic loss of life. We reject entirely this act and those similar acts of violence in recent weeks across the region in Ben Gardane, Aden, Ankara, and yesterday's devastating killing at al-Shuhadaa stadium in Iraq.
In our debates we have shown that there are different ways of meeting the challenges of life affecting societies both in the MENA region and Europe. We have created the safe space for informed debate, agreeing to disagree and challenge preconceived ideas on a range of complex motions. They have ranged from debate motions on media censorship in reporting on terrorist attacks, whether to ban religious schools, and the imposition of quotas for youth in local elections.
We need more opportunities for this kind of debate. It will reduce incentives to extremist voices and reduce the space for intolerance which 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. We want an inclusive dialogue to find common ground among youth to the north and south.
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 "Debate to Action" Regional Forum, which was organised by the Anna Lindh Foundation and British Council in partnership with the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), brought together more than 80 emerging youth leaders from eight Arab countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia), in addition to European peers, policy-makers and international media networks.