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On the 30th of March Forward Thinking held a conference in the Gaza Strip exploring issues relating to of Education and Employment. The conference, organised under the EUPD programme, was the first of a two-part series of meetings (the second to take place in Ramallah) that are attempting to gain a comprehensive overview of challenges relating to education and employment in the Palestinian Territories, and then to identify potential actions to address the identified issues. The conferences will bring together all key constituencies, including youth activists and representatives of the business community, to ensure that discussions are holistic and reflect all perspectives.

In spite of the challenging political and economic situation confronting Gaza, it was felt there were still practical improvements that could be made, and numerous areas for hope. The discussion raised a number of key points, including the need to encourage creativity and innovative thinking (in addition to providing technical know how); the importance of business incubators in helping SMEs develop and overcome initial hurdles; and the unique role that the internet can play in the current context in Gaza, in enabling young people to access external markets. It was agreed that there needed to be closer co-operation and partnership between the education system and business community to ensure that young people gained the necessary skills for the job market. It was also felt that the international community could play a critical role in supporting such positive developments, but must listen to the ideas of people on the ground, as opposed to imposing top-down solutions.