Report on Youth Dialogue
« Youth and Public Life »
Saturday September 16, 2017
Syphax Hotel, Sfax
In the context of Tunisia’s transition, and in view of the central role played by young people in promoting the process of building a new Tunisia, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), in cooperation with the « Tounes Lina » (Our Tunisia) Association, organized an open youth dialogue titled « Youth and Public Life » on Saturday September 16, 2017.
Mr. Messaoudi Abidi, Programs Coordinator at CSID, welcomed attendees and emphasized the importance of such events and the need for young people to participate in civic and political life in order to become more effective and prepare themselves to lead in the future.
Mr. Rami Hachicha, President of the Tounes Lina Association welcomed guests and introduced the association, which work on two main themes, namely training young people and strengthening the values of citizenship. He argued that it will be youth who will create change and claim positions of leadership.
The event was attended by more than 80 young people, men and women, and focused on three key themes
Young people’s reluctance to participate in public affairs
Mr. Salaheddine Jourchi opened his speech by talking about the real meaning of citizenship, as embodied in Tunisia through the active participation of citizens in electing the National Constituent Assembly in 2011. However, the participation rate has dropped since then as a result of an ongoing crisis of confidence in the political class, which made overblown promises during election campaigns. He highlighted that the majority of young people have expressed their intention to boycott the upcoming elections, with over 80% saying they will not vote according to a recent survey by a polling company
Mr. Jourchi touched on the following points
The lack of participation by young people in the upcoming elections means that they have given up on the revolution that they led and no longer believe in it and its outcomes, which he considered to be a dangerous indicator
The lack of participation by young people in the upcoming elections means that they are giving up on democracy as a strategic option, which opens the door for the return of dictatorship. Youth would be the first to pay the price for this, and lack of awareness of the value of freedom. Freedom is the oxygen of life. He cited the example of Egypt, where the public is desperate for even a small measure of freedom as a result of the situation they are facing
Not holding the elections means a return to the crisis of confidence, which will have serious consequences will be cut with his future and forcing him to search for individual solutions as a mechanism to achieve the goals and the original search for solutions be collective
Mr. Jourchi concluded his speech by encouraging the young people present to vote in the upcoming local elections, highlighting their importance in achieving change at the local level and seeing them as much more important than the legislative and presidential elections. He also called for the need to deepen dialogue with young people and pay attention to their problems
Mr. Hadi Hammeni, Representative of the Sfax Branch of the Independent Electoral Commission
Mr. Hammeni began by defining « youth » according to the definition used by the Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE) as those aged between 18 and 35 years old. He also presented a number of statistics on the participation of young people in the 2014 elections. All of these showed low rates of participation and that the rate of youth participation in the 2011 elections did not exceed 17%. This percentage dropped in the 2014 elections. He explained that 27.75% of young people are registered for the upcoming elections. Mr. Hammeni expressed concern that young people will not go to the polls in the coming elections given the low percentage of those who are registered to vote. He also presented the efforts carried out by the ISIE to raise awareness among citizens, especially young people, of the upcoming elections, using social media and a range of activities on the ground
Mr. Hammeni emphasized the importance of the municipal elections, given their ability to bring democracy closer to the public. He explained that municipalities will have significant powers in the future as they will enjoy autonomy in the exploitation and management of resources and planning of programs
As for the upcoming elections, he stated that each electoral list should include at least one candidate aged less than 35 years old among the top three candidates on the list. In addition, one of the following six candidates below them must be under 35 years old. If this is not respected, the list can be invalidated altogether
The role of youth in preventing intellectual and political extremism
The journalist and media commentator, Mr. Salaheddine Jourchi, made another presentation focused on extremism and youth. He argued that extremist currents are not produced by America or Europe but are « locally produced », meaning that they grew up in a particular historical context and within a particular cultural, social and economic context. He described the phenomenon of extremism as a complex phenomenon, which begins with an idea that is transformed into an organization. It begins with the conviction that the Shari’a should be applied through the establishment of a government and a state. This requires the toppling of the existing state, which means entering into conflict with the existing state and working to remove it
Mr. Jourchi argued that extremist groups in Tunisia are currently facing an impasse. After establishing their organization and announcing their desire to fight and depose « tyrants » (the term they use to refer to security forces), the result was unexpected. Instead, security forces in Tunisia have become much stronger than even before the revolution and have been able to counter them. Instead of helping to build and create change after the revolution, these groups have played a disruptive role, seeking to block the democratic transition in Tunisia
Mr. Jourchi argued that an important part of a strategy to counter these groups must rely mainly on addressing the ideas and concepts that lead to the emergence of these groups. Its members may have some good intentions but their actions, convictions and strategies have disastrous consequences both for them and for their societies
CSID Director, Dr. Radwan Masmoudi
Dr. Masmoudi warned that the reluctance of young people to engage in public life is a serious issue that must be addressed through the role of the family and civil society. It is essential to restore confidence to young people. Young people need to engage in politics and in civil society organizations and exercise their citizenship and electoral rights. He argued that it is essential to shed the mentality of making demands and move to an attitude that seeks to contribute to building alternatives. He praised the Tunisian electoral system as one of the best systems in the world that guarantees transparency
The youth who participated in the event welcomed such dialogues and platforms. Many expressed concern that young people are, in general, not giving sufficient importance to public affairs, and emphasized that not enough importance is given to youth in this regard. Many expressed their dislike of theoretical and conventional speeches, as well as their frustration at the absence and exclusion of youth from public affairs and the absence of a clear strategy to involve young people, especially in the media. They also expressed dissatisfaction with current media programs that are presented, and the way they approach many issues.
Some of the young participants denounced the recent adoption of the Administrative Reconciliation Law by the Assembly of People’s Representatives, which they regarded as being rejected by the majority of Tunisians and as having caused the latest wave of unrest in the country. They argued that this increases the reluctance of young people to get involved in politics and in public affairs. They argued that this makes them more at risk of being attracted to extremism as a result of exclusion from public life and deprivation of their rights, especially the right to dignity and employment
A group of participants also argued that the reluctance of young people to get involved in public affairs cannot be justified in any way and that there is no convincing argument for it. They expressed the view that public affairs are important for both the present and the future of our country. Young people are the ones who construct the present and have the biggest stake in the future. For this reason, they do not have the right to stay out of public life, which concerns them more than any other group. They argued that public affairs in any country require the participation of young people and their courage in order to ensure that the future of their country heads in the right direction. Thus, it is essential that young people develop a strong belief in the importance of matters and decisions that touch the national interest, in which everyone must participate