Haigazian University, in collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation Lebanon and UNESCO, launched the program More than a Talk Shop: Regaining the Assemblée Nationale du Liban, a Parliamentary Project that aims at simulating the case of the Lebanese Parliament. 32 students between the age of 16 to 18 years old, from eight Lebanese public and private schools, took part in this unprecedented event, which took place at Haigazian University, over a course of two months. Participating schools were: Hassan Saab Public High School (Beirut), Palace of Modern Culture High School (Beirut), Al Ahliah School (Beirut), Collège Notre Dame de Jamhour (Mount Lebanon), Imam Sadr Foundation-Afak Institute (Tyr), Mustafa Shumran High School (Tyr), Rafic Hariri High School (Saida), and Azm School (Tripoli).
The program consisted of seven training sessions and a final conference; the simulation of a parliamentary session. During those sessions, students were divided into four parliamentary committees: Media and Communications, Environment, Human Rights, and Women and Children. Each committee was given a specific topic to work on throughout the program.
During those sessions, students also had the chance to interact with two professionals who shared with them the dynamics of the parliament: MP Ghassan Moukheiber, member of several parliamentary committees, namely Law and Administration, Human Rights and Environment, and Mr. Samer Abdallah, an active member of the NGOs Nahwa Al Muwainitya, “Towards Citizenship”, and Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections.
The sessions concluded with a simulation of a real parliamentary session. Participants were divided into four groups, representing the four committees, and the simulated Speaker of the House, a Syrian Civil Engineer and civil society activist, opened the parliamentary session and welcomed all student parliamentarians. A student of each committee presented the draft law developed within the committee during the last weeks. After few amendments student parliamentarians voted on those laws.
In his congratulatory address, University President, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, appreciated the great work of the students, their analytical mind, and the seriousness of the program. He shared his views on finding a balance between the ideals and the interests in life. “Life is a war between the ideals and one’s interests. You should never lose your ideals, but always keep an eye open to your interests and everyone else’s interests,” Haidostian said.
For her part, the head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Lebanon, Dr. Bente Scheller, thanked Haigazian University for its great cooperation with the foundation, in addition to all key people who helped make this great program possible. She also appreciated the great efforts and commitment of the students.
The program concluded with an award ceremony, whereby President Haidostian and Dr. Scheller jointly distributed certificates to committee heads and students.