The perceived slow pace of Palestinian reconciliation, with little visible progress on the ground, has provoked growing concern at both the political and grassroots levels. With what many view to be a rapidly deteriorating international context following President Trump’s statement on Jerusalem, there is considerable pressure on political leaders to deliver both practical results and a clear strategy in order to bolster support for political unity and to give direction to popular dissatisfaction.
Building on the foundations laid by the conference held in Gaza in December 2017 and capitalising on the appetite for inclusive dialogue, Forward Thinking facilitated a parallel conference in Nablus on 27th January 2018, titled ‘Moving Forward Together: Addressing the Challenges Facing Palestinian Youth’. The conference was unique in its inclusiveness, bringing together senior political and youth leaders from a broad range of factions and from across the West Bank, with figures from Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah and Tulkarem participating. Participants included the Minister of Education and Higher Education, Dr Sabri Saidam, cross-party members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, former Ministers, officials from the Ministry of Education and the Prime Minister’s Office, leading business figures, civil society representatives, academics and influential youth leaders from a range of backgrounds and institutions. All of the main Palestinian factions were represented, with keynote speeches delivered by Dr Sabri Saidam, Minister of Education and Higher Education, academics from Al-Najah University and prominent business figures.
The conference provided the opportunity for an inclusive discussion on the role of young Palestinians in politics and public life. There was consensus on the importance of empowering and investing in Palestinian youth as ‘agents of change’, acknowledging the existing political marginalisation of youth by all factions. This is a particular priority within efforts to build Palestinian unity. To this end, Dr Saidam stated: ‘We need to be brave enough to come up with a joint future, a joint platform, for all to contribute to’. With agreement on the urgency of political reconciliation and the necessity of engaging young people, it was emphasised that discussions need to be translated into practical and tangible initiatives. Suggestions included establishing mechanisms for policy development by young people and consultation forums with political figures. These recommendations follow the political adoption of recommendations made during December’s Gaza conference.
Senior political figures from diverse factions cited the unique nature of participation, and advised the model of dialogue be replicated across governorates in the West Bank.