In celebration of #UnitedNationsDay and #WorldCitiesDay, AsiaTV and ASEAN Young Public Servants release a special E-Magazine Series on : The Cities Young Public Servants Want, to exchange best practices among local, national, regional youth councils around the world. On the First Issue, we interview Mr. Nidal Benali – نضال بنعلي of the Network of Local Youth Councils الشبكة الوطنية للمجالس المحلية للشباب بالمغرب, ICESCO.En Youth Peace Ambassador and Moroccan Lead to the Community of Democracies.
Nidal Benali: What it means to be next generation Moroccan
Authored by: Regine Stephanie Borja Guevara, Volunteers Head of Committee for ASEAN Youth Cooperation
Design by: John Mark Borja & Mirachel Yuki
MOROCCO is the future because it is a nation for the next generation. Half of the population is under the age of 35, the official national age for youth, and it leads as one of the 10 fast-countries of the UN Youth Strategy. While it is also said that Asia is the future, mother Africa’s youthful population is home to this Moroccan story that touches the heart. There is more to Morocco’s youth than meets the eye – it takes a village to raise a child; before the global, the regional, the national, there was the local.
Like most Moroccans, family has been a guiding force for this young leader from Assilah city, Nidal Benali. At a young age, Nidal built his dreams around an inherited legacy, on the noble values of love for country and community, loyalty to the King, public service. He was then going to be somebody his parents and his people would always be proud of.
Raised in the quaint and peaceful town of Assilah, where one takes pride for genuine beginnings, the interlacing blues of historical architecture and the coastal sea – one finds – that it is the people who elevate all mundane into magic, with how much can be done, if only hand-in-hand together. In this side of the world, with Europe, Arab, indigenous origins all coming together in the Northern coast, to live as one unit is a day-to-day experience for both the young, and the old. “Everybody is family, we all know each other and support one another, that’s how I first learned the value of community,” says Nidal as he warmly welcomed foreigners to different pockets of his community, from his relatives at service in the academe, or government, family friends from the diplomatic corps, to street bystanders, cooks at the mahlaba, artists in the souk… name it. Here lies one best practice, if at all, can be shared : the makings of next generation leadership is formed with and by the local people.
In the interview, Nidal goes on to share stories of childhood, growing up with consciousness of his grandfathers’ participation at the resistance movements for Moroccan independence, from the North, to the South. Mr. Mohammed El Mekki Benali, his father, whom he treats as his role model in patriotism, was himself one of the youngest members of parliament, and the first architect of its kind. At the age of 6, when kids would likely not mind playing at the comfort of home, the young leader of Assilah would beg to accompany his father to watch the King’s public speeches. And with mother as his right hand, a very close knit family from which good values were grounded, even out into the bigger world of global leadership, where skills and experiences were put to the test. This included managing conflict in the school or workplace, where disagreements and political oppositions were bound to be struggles of leaders at any point in time. But when asked the greatest lesson learned, he was quick to answer about humility: “No matter who you are, where you are, always treat people equally and help them as best you can.”
NEXT GENERATIONS are about big dreams, and passions. But not without the roots, and upbringing. Professionalism, of treating peers equally, without bias, being a team player, organizing people’s instead of individuals, are turning points between who can be a future politician, versus a public servant. This precisely is the vision of the Network of Local Youth Councils of Morocco, founded by Nidal and his peers from other cities – to form a support and training ground for Morocco’s next public servants, whichever side of the spectrum they are from. After being President of Asilah youth council in 2013, the national network was founded, which later became part of the World Urban Youth Councils Network. It is also a member of Friends for Leadership, an international network of next generation leaders exchanging best practices, and the Major Group for Children and Youth, represented by Asian Youth Peace Network. And the rest is history – including opportunities to travel the world included addressing the European Parliament on behalf of youth councils, the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia, and the international committee of a Turkish think tank: Co-Opinon.
Today, Nidal Benali serves a much wider community by representing Morocco at large, at the Community of Democracies, and as ICESCO youth peace ambassador, through which he also sits in the Ad Hoc Committee of Luanda Biennale Conference with ICESCO, UNESCO and African Union. So what does it mean to be the next generation? To be a young person who knows his or her roots, gentleness to the little, respect for all peoples, and because of these, to be able to recognize connectivity with all levels of society – values of coexistence broken-down into step by step. When asked about a message to the youth :
“Every single person from my family, to teachers, mentors, friends, and a very special person, contributed to who I am now as a leader, and I hope to work with more young people who can find themselves first and give back to their own local community, so we can altogether increase spaces for all youth at higher levels. Participation can be more tangible, only by bringing everyone together, and then encouraging each other to be humble… to give, more than to receive.” – Nidal Benali
AsiaTV, and the ASEAN Young Public Servants family, believes in the importance of community in forming the next generation of public servants and peacebuilders. One lesson learned from the local is that leaders make other leaders happen – the soul of Leaving Nobody Behind (as the UN motto goes.) Wherever part of the world we are in, may we always know our way home, so that no matter where the tides and currents take us, we can find our homes within.
More cities around the world coming soon! DOWNLOAD THE ISSUES OF ASIA TV’S E-MAG SERIES HERE.