Palestine seeks good governance among young generation
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.
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.
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.