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Kamel Ibrahim:“Awareness is not enough, only lobbying makes solutions!”

kamel IbrahimKamel Ibrahim, General Secretary of YASA:
“Awareness is not enough, only lobbying makes solutions!”

The Gate Magazine - Issue 3 

Scandalous declaration:
“We succeeded in issuing a driving license for a blind and for a dead person”

In a modest office, yet very reflective of extreme activity and dynamism, YASA welcomed The Gate University Students Magazine for a discourse that tackled youth awareness, especially in matter of road safety and awareness. This discourse, similarly to all previous ones with youth-directed NGOs, is another living proof of what every young citizen can achieve, simply by starting with a dream, a mission and some know-how…

The beginnings
YASA started as an awareness organization following the death of Tarek Assi, an AUB student, in the mid-nineties. It started at the hands of Tarek’s friends. YASA got its official license in 1996 and since then, it kept leaving brilliant marks in the field of safety and awareness.

The Mission: Safety on all levels.
“Our aim is to have no more deaths on roads” says Ibrahim. “Every year we witness an increase of 10 to 15 percent in road accidents, despite all the efforts” he adds.
Ibrahim indicates however that YASA is not composed of one single organization but rather became a group of independent committees, all specialized in safety, in different fields: roads, swimming, skiing, schools, nurseries, fires, buildings, sports, etc…

Lobbying: When awareness is not enough!
YASA didn’t last long as an organization restricted to awareness. “At some point, we were convinced that awareness alone was not enough and that reaching concrete solutions requires active lobbying!” said Ibrahim.
As a result, the Public Works and Transportation Committee in the Lebanese Parliament recently assigned YASA to work on a new draft law for transportation, especially that the current one dates since 1967.
“Unfortunately, the government didn’t give priority to road safety. Often laws are enforced for around one or two weeks after which things go back to their previous state, without taking into consideration any long-term strategic plans” complains Ibrahim.
The new law that YASA is working on in addition to their regular lobbying programs all tackle many critical issues, those not bring restricted to: Traffic on roads, lack of well-trained specialized policemen (some of which do break the law themselves eventually), some citizens being above the law and facing policemen with the famous Lebanese statement “sure you don’t know who you’re talking to”, introducing the points system that would eventually lead to withdrawing driving licenses from law-breakers without having to confront them with policemen, avoiding therefore any compromise or threats towards the latter, imposing strict driving tests before giving out licenses, increasing the number of pedestrian bridges (almost 60 additional ones will be placed by the ministry of public works), giving more attention to motorcycles and making sure their drivers wear their helmets, offering awareness programs to Lebanese Army soldiers and to schools and universities, encouraging candidates for municipality elections to give special attention to road safety in their electoral programs, making use of media and advertisement to spread the word, etc…

Volunteering: The basis of YASA’s activism
“We don’t take money for the conferences we conduct” declares Ibrahim. “Our activism is all based on volunteering. Only when we provide brochures, DVDs or any special equipment, the operation costs would be covered by the school or university that is hosting us” he adds.
On another hand, Ibrahim indicates that YASA also profits a lot from the experience of fellow active YASA offices in Canada, France, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. This fact reveals how YASA is turning into a further advanced international organization.

In universities: Political Parties are YASA’s main partners
“Political parties are the ones capable of gathering the highest numbers of attendants and this is why we primarily work with them whenever we are hosted in universities” declares Ibrahim. YASA believes in the high importance of the role of universities, especially that most death cases on roads affect people aged between 15 and 28. Ibrahim indicates however that YASA often faces difficulties convincing universities to host them for presentations. “Usually student clubs or councils call us to present exhibitions on campus, and each conference we do is attended by more than 500 students, often with surrounding rooftops crowded as well. Some Lebanese University campuses are harder to reach due to restrictions imposed on political parties.” he adds.

Student volunteering…

Still in universities, YASA relies a lot on student volunteering, in many domains: design, marketing, engineering, medicine, campaign and conference organization, etc… Ibrahim believes that “Students feel happy to serve within YASA’s campaigns, as they would be offering good service for society and also get credit for what they offer. And if what they’re offering falls within their profession, they benefit from their work since it’s adding to their experience portfolio. Moreover, it’s great to feel that what they are working on is reaching concrete results. And finally, spending time in good activism is by far much better than spending it probably on bad habits.”
“In the last 4 years, YASA didn’t focus a lot on volunteers’ recruitment programs but rather on projects. Now we’re focused back on attracting more volunteers especially that the political situation is more stable and students can help in a much more comfortable atmosphere, and things would even get better if the government gives further attention to our issues” adds Ibrahim.

According to Ibrahim, nothing is imposed on activists. They are free to serve maybe one day of a year or even come every day. “YASA activists are only required to abide by safety laws in order not to harm YASA’s image” says Ibrahim. “Whenever we need activists for a certain project or campaign, all we do is send an email about it and whoever is available comes for help”.
This would make it easier for students so they wouldn’t be giving up on their studies time and thus wouldn’t cause them any problems with their parents who after all would be happy to know that their children are serving a good cause and not spending their time in anything bad, believes Ibrahim.

Challenges: Corruption and Mafias!!!
“The main challenge is the disappointment that we face as we witness the number of accidents increasing dramatically. Sometimes we also feel that we are alone in the battlefield, facing all kinds of mafias that are profiting from the current situation on behalf of everyone’s safety. Those rise from the corruption that is available in many public administrations. If things get regulated correctly, they would lose the privilege of receiving bribes, or commissions on driving licenses, on special car plate numbers, on fake “mecanique” tests. Also when it comes to corrupt contractors, they will be fighting to stop any regulations that would impose on them extra costs to abide by safety measures, etc… All those people only care for their quick money and will fight by all means any campaign that YASA conducts”. By this, Ibrahim highlights on a very challenging side of YASA’s activism.

The big scandal: driving licenses for blind and dead people!
Ibrahim reveals a major scandal that YASA was capable of provoking: “In order to prove how weak our regulations are and how deep-rooted corruption is in matter of road safety, we were capable, through YASA activists, of issuing a driving license for a blind person and also for a dead person. And the latter was thanks to the cooperation of his mother, who is an activist in YASA!”

Who’s responsible?
Ibrahim indicates that the minister of interior affairs Ziad Baroud is cooperating with YASA. “However, the minister alone cannot do everything! The judicial must be more dynamic on this matter and should move to impose law more strictly” he says.
Ibrahim adds: “Neither civil society nor anyone can be of enough support if the judicial doesn’t impose firmness in all road safety issues!”

Future plans?
According to Ibrahim, YASA seems very much focused on the new transportation law and the global awareness it requires in addition to the lobbying to apply it. Besides, YASA is planning to launch programs targeting bus and truck drivers and will be lobbying to include safety programs within educational programs at schools, and that in partnership with the ministry of education, all that besides the usual regular campaigns that YASA is used to perform.

Final Message
Finally, Kamel Ibrahim addresses his final message to The Gate University Students Magazine’s readers: “Think for once about the people that love you and what could happen if you race and something happens to you and how much you will suffer. The government is not the only one responsible, we are all responsible too!”

Lebanon , Car Crashes - Lebanon

Date: 3/22/2011 7:13:55 PM

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Wlak kbirrr ya Abou L Kimmmz
Date Time: 3/1/2011 12:52 PM
Car Crashes - Lebanon

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