In Libya, NDI's new youth debates program, called "Voice of Change" demonstrates the important work that can be done despite the ongoing conflict in the country. Debates are often one of the first real opportunities that young people have to engage in the basic tenets of democracy. The skills that students develop in preparing arguments on policy topics, in presenting those arguments and in being judges in their effectiveness last a lifetime. Through each debate, more people are introduced to democratic ideas and the pros and cons of political party and government policies.
"Debating has become a lifestyle for me. Now that I know it, I will never forget it." - Participant from the Tripoli Debate Club
NDI is working with university students across Libya to conduct debate competitions and help youth understand the value of debates, the principles of research and critical thinking skills, and the political knowledge necessary to hold meaningful discussions on issues of importance to youth. NDI works in partnership with student debate clubs at four different universities in Tripoli, Zawiyah, Sabha, and Jufra. Since November 2019, NDI's partner debate clubs have trained over 420 students n the basics of debating -- as well as critical thinking, teamwork, rhetoric, structuring arguments and listening.
"I was amazed by the number of participants, both boys and girls. It was noticeable how enthusiastic they were in expressing themselves as youth filled with energy- which is rare in our community." - Father of one of the debate participants from Almusajala Club
The clubs held local competitions in each region, in which newly trained students practiced their skills and debated topics chosen by the students themselves. This included topics such as the security sector, public health, the environment, under-age marriage, privatizing electricity supplies, the role of civil society, women, education, elections and the role of the media.
In April, the winning teams from each of the four university clubs will utilize the skills gained over the last several months in a national debate competition in Tripoli. NDI will also seek to hold a regional debate competition among youth participants from NDI's programs in Jordan, Lebanon and Libya. This competition will provide an opportunity to discuss shared priorities among youth, share successes and challenges faced by participants, and showcase the importance of debate to young people across the MENA region.
In addition to university debates, NDI has started a high school debate program, in partnership with the Dialogue and Debate Association (DDA). Both debate programs will lead to a Libyan youth parliament, enabling Libyan youth to be heard during the country's transition. This complements other NDI programs to improve civic education, which have focused primarily on elections.
Both the university and high school debate programs are funded by USAID under the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS). NDI is grateful for the support it receives from USAID for this project.