Kamel Wehbe, Forbes’ 30 under 30

Source: Annahar
Paula Naoufal
Kamel Wehbe poses for the cover magazine of Forbes on August 2020. (HO)
Kamel Wehbe poses for the cover magazine of Forbes on August 2020. (HO)
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BEIRUT: Merely 20 years old, Kamel Wehbe’s work in parliament and his appointment as the first National Youth Liaison to the Presidency of the Lebanese Republic, pushed him to be crowned as the youngest person and Lebanese on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for his work in Law and Policy. 

Wehbe’s success path began when he used the public speaking and diplomacy efforts towards opening dialogue towards reconciliation in his village Mahrouna where there was a 7-year conflict over the municipality. He created the Young Diplomats Club and served as a policy debater at the International Debate Education Association. Additionally, Wehbe worked at the Parliament as a researcher who served on the Parliamentary committees of Education, Women and Human Rights, and Youth and Sports. His work played a role in achieving the equivalency of the IB with the Lebanese Baccalaureate given his belief in the need for holistic education and working towards a unified Lebanese narrative. 

During his academic path at the American University of Beirut, Wehbe had met the president’s youth advisor at several instances and portrayed his reform aspirations and leadership skills. It was then that the presidential palace was intrigued about his skill set and the work he had done in parliament.
“During one meeting with the president’s youth advisor, I suggested three bills that I believe should be created for the Lebanese youth. Seeing that these bills had merit, the president’s youth advisor asked me to become the first National Youth liaison to the Presidency of the Lebanese Republic,” Wehbe stated. 

Wehbe's work as the National Youth was centered around youth inclusion and educational reform. He produced three bills; forming a National Commission for Lebanese Youth, signing the international patent cooperation treaty, and launching a national job-seeking platform with the Ministry of labor and National Employment Office, all of which are included in the 2021 budget. 

The first bill regarding the formation of a National Commission for Lebanese Youth will serve to act as an official body that has a scrutinizing role and is legally independent from government. Additionally, it allows its members to participate in parliamentary committees and give their input on proposed bills. The second bill regarding signing the international patent cooperation treaty, would help Lebanese investors and entrepreneurs to invent and then sign their patents in Lebanon. This in turn will embolden the start-up scene in Lebanon.

The third bill regarding the formation of a national job-seeking platform with the Ministry of Labor and National Employment Office, hopes to centralize a platform for job seekers in Lebanon. “The National Employment Office is a marginalized institution in Lebanon, and we must revive it” he stated. “Regardless of the current decline in job opportunities, this bill will aim at creating something out of nothing”

What makes Wehbe’s story special is the moral dilemma of working in the Palace amidst the revolution. Yet to Wehbe, change can begin from the inside. “If you want to save a sinking ship you do not curse the captain, but you conspire to take the helm. Also, I was not very effective in the streets and I didn’t have the capacity to implement change there, so I wanted to look for a different channel for implementing reforms,” Wehbe stated. 

Wehbe also believes that even if the current situation in Lebanon is terrible, there always ways to implement change. “We are in a very dire situation and implementing radical reforms and changing the system requires a really long time. Therefore, now is the moment to leverage the rising community of change-makers, the ones who are staying in Lebanon,” he added. “Surely we cannot expect of the youth not to immigrate, but we tap into the talented ones that do stay”

Upon receiving the news of making the 30 under 30 Forbes list, Wehbe was ecstatic. He felt that this title could motivate his family, his friends and young Lebanese to push and persevere, aiming to ameliorate Lebanon’s future. “My advice for the youth, is don’t settle, follow your passion and fight for what you believe in and work according to your conviction. Always stay hungry, relentless and make insane sacrifices, because one day, it will all be worth it,” he concluded. 

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