Speakers: Joao Scarpelini, Youth and Community Empowerment Consultant, and Netsanet Belay, Policy and Research Director CIVICUS.
The short answer according to today’s Youth Conference dialogue “Lessons from the Revolutions: Can young people radically transform their societies?” which you can watch here is: Yes. However, before delving into the lessons, a few challenges should be borne in mind so as to make sure we are being realistic in our endeavor:
1. Repression and closing down on citizen participation happens worldwide.
2. People are apathetic and uninterested in global issues, so how can we have global justice? A serious question to ask ourselves is how can we build global governance.
3. Superpowers play a major role in controlling which revolutions are crushed and which are not.
4. Selective media coverage could result in a legitimate fight for freedom and justice being labeled as an act of terrorism.
5. The majority of people in Africa don’t have the means to apply any of the lessons learned today.
According to the speakers and delegates, these are the lessons learned from the ‘Arab Spring’:
1. Being connected to the government is what brings results.
2. Masses are needed to effect change. The people united will never be defeated!
3. Solidarity between movements and across countries– even if you don’t agree with each other–is essential when it comes to objecting the government’s crushing of freedom of expression.
4. Boycotting: Holding politicians accountable through cultural and economic boycott of regimes which violate human rights.
5. Media: let them hear you loud and clear.
6. Bring youth who started the revolution to the table to make decisions.
7. Powerful stories trigger powerful reactions. (ex. Bouzizi setting himself on fire in Tunisia).
8. Technology made organizing and mobilizing much easier and efficient, and allowed us to tell powerful stories more effectively.
9. Don’t give all credt to social media: some countries don’t have it and masses play a major role.
10. Multiplicity: It’s OK to fight for multiple specific causes instead of the banal ‘Us’ vs. ‘The System’.
11. Reinforce the role of micro-revolutions: These are more pragmatic and easier to organize, and once added up will result in a real movement.
12. Interconnectivity: Broadcast things in your language but also in English so that the world knows your struggle and demands.
13. Innovation: Be creative in organizing and challenging the law without putting yourself at risk.
14. Beware of big powers trigerring revolutions because of their own economic and political interests.
15. Have courage: Can we go as far as Bouzizi to get our freedom?
16. Democracy cannot be imposed, as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan. Citizens decide how and when to get democracy.
17. Beware of media bias and selectivity: It took Youtube to show how Muslim women have always been involved in Arab societies.
18. Believe in the power of peaceful protesting and civil disobedience.
19. Be hopeful! There’s evidence now that it is something worth working for!