Palestine seeks good gov­er­nance among young gen­er­a­tion

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY BA­DIA ZEDAN

The idea of Youth Lo­cal Coun­cils in Palestine was born in 2009. Then, they were called youth lo­cal sup­port coun­cils. The pro­ject, a joint ini­tia­tive by Sharek Youth Fo­rum and CHF In­ter­na­tional, was based on cre­at­ing coun­cils that would be sim­i­lar to lo­cal author­i­ties in their struc­ture, tasks and oper­a­tions.

The pro­ject was born out of a real ne­ces­sity to pro­vide means and mech­a­nisms that would help en­hance youth en­gage­ment in serv­ing civil so­ci­ety, within a youth­ful con­text, which would give young peo­ple the abil­ity to re­spon­si­bly en­gage in lo­cal gov­er­nance and rep­re­sent the needs and fu­ture as­pi­ra­tions of the lo­cal youth.

Youth Lo­cal Coun­cils have proven very suc­cess­ful, thanks to nu­mer­ous ini­tia­tives and ac­tiv­i­ties or­ga­nized dur­ing that pe­riod of time; heads of youth coun­cils presided mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of their lo­ca­tions for three days, (as is the case in Jeri­cho and Bidiya), and some even be­came ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors of in­sti­tu­tions in their lo­cal com­mu­nity, thanks to net­work­ing and dozens of new vol­un­tary ac­tiv­i­ties, as well as youth cam­paigns that fo­cused on serv­ing the lo­cal com­mu­nity (the youth par­tic­i­pated, for in­stance, in eas­ing the traf­fic cri­sis in Ram-Ka­lan­dia, and or­ga­nized another cam­paign to help flood vic­tims in An­abta.)

Youth Lo­cal Coun­cil ac­tiv­i­ties and ini­tia­tives were not re­stricted to mem­bers of public en­ti­ties: lo­cal coun­cils worked on es­tab­lish­ing lo­cal youth net­works, in or­der to cre­ate a bal­ance be­tween lo­cal needs and youth in­ter­ests. Those youth net­works and groups ex­panded their lim­its and thanks to the coun­cil, they got the op­por­tu­nity to pro­pose ac­tiv­i­ties and work on pro­vid­ing needed sup­port.

Youth Ex­pe­ri­ences

Ac­cord­ing to Adiba Alkam, mem­ber of the Youth Lo­cal Coun­cil of Beit Amr, in the He­bron Gov­er­norate, south of the West Bank, “the train­ing we re­ceived was very use­ful; it was es­sen­tial for me to find a job and I con­sider it a touch­ing life ex­pe­ri­ence. The Beit Amr Youth Coun­cil is the only one in the He­bron Gov­er­norate for the mo­ment ... In it, we do not tackle po­lit­i­cal sub­jects di­rectly. How­ever, the oc­cu­pa­tion some­times hin­ders our work, be­cause young peo­ple in our coun­cil are get­ting ar­rested. Youth coun­cils rep­re­sent an idea that is wide­spread in the whole coun­try and gen­er­ally speak­ing; there is no big in­ter­est, among us, in co­op­er­at­ing with of­fi­cials. We are much more in­ter­ested in the ac­tiv­i­ties we are pur­su­ing and most im­por­tantly, we fi­nally turned into ef­fec­tive groups.”

As for the young Daoud Oth­man, from the Youth Lo­cal Coun­cil of Qalqilya, he con­sid­ered the ex­pe­ri­ence “al­most unique in the world.” The Youth Lo­cal Coun­cil of Qalqilya started op­er­at­ing in 2010. “Our ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude pre­par­ing a touris­tic map for the visi­tors of our city, in­clud­ing ori­en­ta­tion pan­els, as well as other en­ter­tain­ment events for the chil­dren of mar­tyrs, pris­on­ers and or­phans.” “These coun­cils gave us an op­por­tu­nity to get in­tro­duced to each other, as well as to com­mu­ni­cate and in­ter­act with the young peo­ple in other gov­er­norates.”

On a Na­tional Level

Ac­cord­ing to Bader Za­mareh, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sharek Youth Fo­rum, “the idea of na­tional elec­tions, or­ga­nized to form lo­cally elected youth coun­cils, is a na­tion­wide idea that tries to be a chan­nel for the in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized, ef­fec­tive and le­git­i­mate par­tic­i­pa­tion of the youth. Thus, the list of part­ners in­cludes ac­tive mem­bers of of­fi­cial and public in­sti­tu­tions, who shall share roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, each ac­cord­ing to their job and scope of work. This part­ner­ship mainly aims at pro­vid­ing the youth with all the fa­cil­i­ties they need to es­tab­lish their coun­cils and pur­sue their ac­tiv­i­ties with full in­de­pen­dence, away from any kind of tu­tor­ship.

He added that the coun­cils prin- cipally aim at en­hanc­ing the youth par­tic­i­pa­tion at var­i­ous lev­els, in all lo­cal in­stances, in or­der to achieve a wider and more in­flu­ent par­tic­i­pa­tion in all public mat­ters. Those coun­cils get their im­por­tance from the ur­gent need to get a strong po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion among the youth, and to make them con­sciously en­gaged, in an ef­fec­tive and re­spon­si­ble man­ner, in demo­cratic prac­tices. Be­sides, or­ga­niz­ing gen­eral elec­tions to es­tab­lish those coun­cils helps to con­front the ex­clu­sion and marginal­iza­tion is­sue, and helps young peo­ple re­cover their ac­tive role in all po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial sec­tors, which will be a con­fir­ma­tion of the demo­cratic process.

Za­mareh noted that the ef­forts of the Sharek Youth Fo­rum fo­cused on three themes: build­ing the mem­bers’ ca­pac­i­ties, set­ting a net­work of con­tacts with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and ex­e­cut­ing var­i­ous youth ini­tia­tives on the lo­cal level.

Global Com­mu­ni­ties

On another note, Lana Abu He- jleh, di­rec­tor gen­eral of CHF In­ter­na­tional, de­clared that the Youth Lo­cal Coun­cils are the re­sult of grow­ing and sus­tained

ef­forts, aim­ing at build­ing and sup­port­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ing bod­ies, in the face of huge chal­lenges im­posed by re­al­ity. All of this re­asserts the fact that the youth is the most im­por­tant com­po­nent of the Pales­tinian fab­ric and that it is im­por­tant to in­volve young peo­ple in the build­ing process, and pre­pare them for lead­er­ship roles dur­ing this phase and in the fu­ture.

Abu He­jleh as­sured that the ab­sence of youth in the de­vel­op­ment process will be the big­gest ob­sta­cle hin­der­ing the chances of suc­cess. She spoke of the deep and pos­i­tive im­pact that the youth lo­cal coun­cils left on young men and women, who had the chance to ef­fec­tively par­tic­i­pate in the de­vel­op­ment process of their com­mu­nity, and in de­sign­ing a brighter fu­ture. She praised the ex­pe­ri­ence of Youth Lo­cal Coun­cils, say­ing that they are worth the ef­fort. She also added that they de- serve to re­ceive any sup­port nec­es­sary for their de­vel­op­ment, for the preser­va­tion of their noble value and to make them in­grained in the public con­scious­ness as a ma­jor com­po­nent of the so­ci­ety, which aims at a cre­at­ing a con­struc­tive and pos­i­tive move­ment that would help en­hance na­tion­al­ism and com­mu­nity work.

Dur­ing a spe­cial event held in New York City at the end of last year, the John McNulty Prize com­mit­tee for Ex­cep­tional Lead­er­ship, granted by the John Mcnulty Or­ga­ni­za­tion, hon­ored Abu HI­jleh for her lead­ing role in de­vel­op­ing and ex­e­cut­ing the Youth Lo­cal Coun­cils ini­tia­tive in Palestine, which is try­ing, in co­op­er­a­tion with the lo­cal en­ti­ties, to in­tro­duce the youth to good gov­er­nance prac­tices, pro­mote their par­tic­i­pa­tion in demo­cratic elec­tions, and give them op­por­tu­ni­ties to have lead­ing roles in their com­mu­ni­ties, so they can pre­pare them­selves to be fu­ture lead­ers at lo­cal level and else­where.

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