Published 3 November 2023

Youth at centre stage in the Marmara Urban Forum, Istanbul

In early October 2023, the Marmara Municipalities Union (MMU), organised the international conference ‘Marmara Urban Forum’ – MARUF. This brought together hundreds of speakers and panelists from 45 countries, engaging in over 150 sessions on a wide range of areas related to urban development and sustainability.

The organisers of MARUF, the MMU, are long-term partners of SALAR International in the Sida-funded Reslience in Local Governance RESLOG Project, implemented since 2018 in partnership with local governments and associations in Lebanon and Türkiye. The overall aim of the project is to foster resilience among local governments and communities through strengthened municipal governance, more equal access to services, and fostering livelihood opportunities and means for peaceful co-habitation among women and men in Syrian refugee and host communities.

In this year’s MARUF, the RESLOG Türkiye team contributed through organising and moderating a number of sessions on themes such as cohabitation and earthquake recovery. One session was Living together: Catalyzing youth engagement for co-habitation. Here, young social activists from the Akkar governorate in Lebanon and Orhangazi Municipality in Türkiye shared inspiring examples of processes where RESLOG and partner municipalities had contributed by structuring and making enabling environments for youth engagement accessible. This has brought changes to how young members of local communities engage with each-other, as well as how youth and local governments collaborate and view each other. This has been achieved in spite of the many structural barriers and mobility hinders, which especially Syrian youth face in both countries.

Young social activists shared inspiring examples

In the Akkar governorate in Lebanon, RESLOG has worked with establishing structures for youth engagement in local governance and tapped into the interest of young people to take part in local community development and decision-making. This included establishing First Responder Teams, and engaging youth in data collection. It also included organising training on active citizenship for a large group of young women and men with a focus on: active citizenship and youth empowerment, advocacy and lobbying, project management, electoral campaigns, municipal law and mandates, and proposal writing.

Elissar Hallak, Social Activist from Bireh Municipality in Akkar

Elissar Hallak

Living in an underserved area like Akkar poses significant challenges for young people. Despite being one of the largest governorates in Lebanon, it suffers from lack of many basic services, forcing us to seek opportunities in other areas. Any efforts to enhance our skills and self-development requires us to move to major cities such as Tripoli and Beirut. This means leaving our homes for extended periods to participate in training programs or internships. This situation creates obstacles for the ambitions of young individuals. Usually, there is a complete absence of opportunities for youth empowerment.

In response to these challenges, we are happy to seize every opportunity to develop ourselves. Within the RESLOG supported processes, we have developed project proposals based on local needs in areas such as agriculture, recycling, and rehabilitation of youth spaces. This entails a hope to pave the road for youth to develop training skills, writing projects, and to engage in networking with local organizations and authorities.

This journey empowered us to meet municipalities, sharing needs and suggestion based on facts and data, inclusive of Syrian youth, who typically had minimal contact with municipalities. We, both Syrian and Lebanese youth, want to be a resource in the development of Akkar governorate".

Jinane Saadeldine, activist and volunteer from Akkar governorate

Jinane Saadeldine

My aspiration has always been to actively contribute to my community and play a vital role in the developmental of my village. Our journey with RESLOG started in 2019 when we volunteered for the COVID-19 emergency response.

However, our involvement did not end with the crisis. We continued to support local authorities in various capacities, focusing on the vital role of youth participation. One such initiative was the social statistics project initiated by RESLOG where young people were the corner stone. We actively engaged in filling out surveys and collecting essential data crucial for development and crisis response.

These initiatives play an important role in reshaping the municipality's perspective on youth. We transformed from being a group perceived as having little to offer into a group upon which the municipality could rely on, especially during critical periods. Engaging in these activities also provided a chance to connect with Syrian immigrants in our area. This interaction brought mutual understanding about respective dreams and challenges and enabled both groups to collaborate in the development of Akkar. We recognized a shared passion and capacity, bridging gaps and fostering a sense of unity among us. This connection with Syrians proved vital for our area. We all faced similar challenges and shared common problems. It became evident that all of us needed to be part of the solution rather than viewing each other through the lens of racism. By working together, we found strength in our shared experiences, promoting cohabitation and cooperation as essential tools in overcoming the challenges we collectively face".

In Orhangazi municipality in Türkiye the RESLOG Project has cooperated with the municipal community center to set-up model plane building workshops and offering space for youth to gather to engage. Later, this developed into an Aviation club and even a company - Woodo.

Suğra Güler, member of the Orhangazi Aviation Club and Marketing Manager of Woodo

Suğra Güler

Joining the Aviation Club has changed my life. If I were not a part of the Aviation Club right now, I have no idea what I would be doing. Before joining the Aviation Club, I had no career aspirations, and I had no interest or knowledge related to aviation. Thanks to this club, I discovered my interest in aviation and my desire to become a pilot in the future.

In the workshop, we not only built airplanes but also received various training in effective communication, branding, entrepreneurship, and marketing, and elected the board of directors of our company. Right after I was elected as the Manager, we opened the company's social media accounts and website to introduce our company to the public. We conducted meetings and negotiations with various entities to secure orders, and our first order was to design 100 watches for a transportation company, and during this process, we learned the importance of teamwork. Throughout this process, we gained knowledge in various areas such as teamwork, responsibility, entrepreneurship, branding, marketing, and effective communication".

Aya Ali Al Najjar, volunteer in Orhangazi municipality

Aya describes how through the Reslog-supported work she engaged in a broad range of activities related to aviation:

Aya Ali Al Najjar

We got the opportunity to practice on simulators, and we invited Turkish Airlines pilots to Orhangazi and held discussions with them. We participated in a competition in Bursa with model aircrafts, and we became Bursa champions. In addition to this, we got the opportunity to visit the Yalova Airfield Command's military facility, where we saw real airplanes and had conversations with military pilots. Here I got on a plane for the first time in my life. We also got the opportunity to visit the Turkish Airlines Simulator Training Center in Istanbul and got to experience takeoffs, landings, and turbulence simulations with passenger planes. This experience opened doors I couldn’t have imagined".

Continued support from RESLOG

In both Lebanon and Türkiye the SALAR International and the RESLOG Project continues to support partner municipalities and local communities in a wide range of areas related to local economic development, effective local governance, inclusive service delivery, and youth and civil society collaboration.

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