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AUB, USJ and UN Collaborate on “AUB-USJ NGO Fair 2017”

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04 May 2017
AUB, USJ and UN Collaborate on “AUB-USJ NGO Fair 2017”
Under the patronage of Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi, and in collaboration with UNIC-Beirut, the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Université Saint-Joseph (USJ) organized the “AUB-USJ NGO Fair 2017” on 27-28 April at the campuses of the two universities in Beirut.

Over two days, representatives from international bodies and civil society organizations held information booths and shared information, civic messages and experience through presentations and engagement with visitors.

The fair, launched by a ceremony on Thursday 27 April at 12:00 PM at Bathish Auditorium, AUB, was attended by Minister Bou Assi; UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini; UNIC-Beirut Acting Director Margo Helou; World Bank Acting Country Manager, Sepehr Fotovat; AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri; and Fouad Maroun, Secretary General of USJ. Also attending were students, participants in the Fair and media representatives.

Lazzarini spoke about the important role of the “under-represented” youth in bringing about a better Lebanon, while discussing the Sustainable Development Goals set globally by the UN for 2030. “With education, you also have responsibilities and the future of this country lies in your hands and you have the responsibility to promote a better future for all,” he told the students.

Fotovat, speaking on behalf of Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Director for the Middle East and North Africa said that volunteering puts youth at the center of development and empowers them to become agents of change, “by enabling them to identify and find solutions to the most pressing problems facing them and their own communities”. “In doing so, volunteering helps to diffuse tensions by bringing youth together around shared goals” he added.

Minister Bou Assi also stressed the important role of volunteering in building cohesive societies. “Volunteering is particularly important in our society because people lack confidence in the State,” he said, adding that “the only way to bring back the interest in [serving] society is to involve the people (…). This is how we transform people from being ‘residents’ to becoming ‘citizens’.”

In his welcome note, President Khuri emphasized the important role that universities play in addressing the challenges of today. “[Universities] should be the engine”, he said, “with thousands of young people passing through our doors, feeling empowered, being handed the tools, the knowledge, and the belief that they are the ones who can make a difference (…) starting here in Lebanon, and throughout the Arab world.”

Maroun, who represented USJ Rector, Pr. Salim Daccache, s.j. highlighted the responsibility of both institutions “in maintaining and nurturing, with our students, faculty and staff, the spirit that led to the birth of our nation.” He added that civic engagement forms better people who positively affect society.

During the fair, the second phase of the National Volunteer Service Program (NVSP) was launched. The NVSP is a World Bank funded project that seeks to improve social stability and service delivery in the most vulnerable Lebanese communities hosting Syrian refugees through NGOs. To-date, 48 volunteering projects benefiting more than 3,300 youth volunteers have been successfully implemented throughout Lebanon.

Participating UN agencies were: Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP) and UNIC Beirut.