Rafah- The participants in the conference “youth, realities and challenges” recommended at the end of the project ” Building Youth Leadership in Palestine”, implemented by the NSDL in cooperation with the Catholic Relief Services, that the political leaders put the national interest above the individual and factional interests. The participants appealed to the international donor institutions to concentrate their programs on youth and to encourage them to political participation, peaceful protests, and demanding their rights by democratic means, particularly the right to education and the other rights stated in the international agreements. Furthermore, the participants recommended founding a youth fund to help them and alleviate their suffering within specific parameters.

The conference was opened by the executive manger of the NSDL Ahamad Abu Assaker. He emphasized in his word that the conference, which would discuss the realities of the Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip and to suggest initiatives that serve youth.

In the beginning of the conference, Kamal Sobbeh, the executive manager of Aljama’ee Association, spoke about the project and its role in creating youth leadership in the community, since it aims to enhancing the role of youth in the process of political, social and cultural participation and fostering their role in volunteerism.

Dr. Salah Abu Khatlah emphasized the importance of holding such meetings in such difficult circumstances in the Gaza Strip resulted from the persistence of the comprehensive blockade, the impacts of which are evident on society particularly the youth who are deprived of their simplest rights. He called upon youth to take the initiative in leadership in order to defend their legitimate rights.

On his part, Darweesh Abu Sharkh , the director of Alamal Rehabilitation Center, spoke about the difficulties facing the youth segment according to the perspective of the civil society institutions, which are manifested in losing confidence in the future, the insufficient existence of institutions concerning with the youth issues, the limitedness of the offered programs, and the government’s indifference to the youth problems, the absence of national plans that concentrates on youth’s needs and preparing them to a better future, in addition to unemployment and its ramifications on youth and their families, the Israeli blockade which resulted in losing the education opportunities. He spoke also about other problems such as the low level of cultural awareness, which makes them an easy prey to the directed media and the acute political polarization, creating thus indifference to the social problems. Concerning the rule of institutions, Abu Sharkh emphasized that they must enhance the positive initiatives that concentrate on volunteerism according to pre-determined well-studied parameters which develop the youth abilities, in addition to enhancing the culture of dialogue and tolerance, and the concept of the democratic civilized society. Furthermore, he emphasized on the importance of creating a national strategic plan for youth.

On his part, the MP Muhammad Hejazee talked about the rule of the legislative council in issuing law protecting youth and how the legislative council succeeded in passing these laws to be a precise organizer of the Palestinian life, contrary to the imperfection and paralysis from which the legislative council is now suffering and his inability to issue any law. Hejazee added that the persistence of the deterioration of the political and economic circumstances in the Gaza Strip in particular, created a negative atmosphere motivating youth to think about alternatives that threaten to hollow out the Palestinian national project of its essential component by the migration of thousands of youth, which was revealed by recent statistics. Hejazee emphasized that the future vision of rescuing the reality of youth in the Gaza Strip stems from the cooperation of all official parts and civic parts and through a sum of laws, in addition to focusing on and working for answering the urgent needs as possible. He added that all the political powers without exception should positively adopt youth.

Mr. Ghassan Abu Hatab, from Beir Zeit Program for Development Studies, opened the second session talking about the importance of development in generating alterations in the youth’s life, and the youth and donor institutions’ role in this regard. Afterwards, Muhammad Abu Amrah, the director of the Sharek Youth Forum, talked about the priorities of the Palestinian society on which it should be focused in order to implement the professional, civic, and political social participation of youth through the youth institutions’ action that aims to providing the social networks and support.

Abu Amra added that the youth institutions face great challenges and hardships in maintaining its sustainability and services. He noticed that if we looked retrospectively, we would notice that the youth institutions focused on human development manifested in building and developing the capability of youth. Due to the exacerbation of the political circumstances and alterations, especially the suffocating Israeli siege on the Gaza strip, the youth institutions began to look for a new philosophy on preparing its programs proposed to donors, concentrating in the last year on mechanisms that help youth to being qualified for labour market; the targeted youth were blended in civil society institutions.

On her part, Sahar sha’at talked about the Catholic Relief Services and its role in supporting all layers of the Palestinian society without exception, particularly the youth segment as a pivotal factor in the process of development and positive alteration in the Palestinian society.

The CRS implemented programs targeting youth directly through providing educational endowments for university students, in addition to the Intervention Project in the Time of Crises for the sake of women and children, which was in partnership with the Gaza Program for Psychological Health.