Youth Summit … Under the auspices of Sharek Youth Forum, Union of Agricultural Work Committees and AMAN;
Ramallah – Under the auspices of the Sharek Youth Forum and Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and in partnership with the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), 150 young men and women from the Youth Village in Kafr Ni’ma, west of Ramallah, addressed an appeal to Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh, ministers, and decision-makers. Under the branding Creative Solutions, the youth presented the model of a youth-led cooperative village as a national entrepreneurial project to reclaim, invest in, and protect land from crawling Israeli settlement activity. Particularly targeting land of the Jordan Valley in Area C, cooperative youth villages set an inspiring example of devotion to, and reliance on, land.
The Youth Summit was the crowning touch to the National Accountability Day. On 30 July 2019, the youth organised 30 accountability sessions on the agriculture sector in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In their final statement, the youth called on the government to implement recommendations of these accountability sessions. In addition to a plan of action with specific timeframes, the Ministry of Agriculture’s (MoA) share of the public budget should be increased. To roll out development and strengthen resilience in the agriculture sector, young people will be integrated in the community and economic development process, especially including the agricultural sector. The youth village development plan will be implemented to ensure the sustainability and continued productivity of youth villages. Young people also called on the government to replicate the model of cooperative youth villages across the Jordan Valley in order to create employment opportunities and support self-sufficiency and production among the young population. As a first step towards economic disengagement from the Israeli occupying authorities, this model will consolidate national economy, a key resource of which is the agriculture sector. It will also safeguard Palestinian land in the face of the attempts of annexation, Judaisation, and settlement activity.
In addition to a young audience, the Youth Summit brought together a number of ministers and decision-makers, including Judge Mousa Shakarneh, Dr. Layla Ghannam, Governor of Ramallah and El-Bireh, and Dr. Nasser Qatami, Advisor to the Prime Minister for Arab and Islamic Funds. The summit was also well attended by representatives of juridical persons, civil society organisations, media institutions, and actors with interest in the promising young generation.
The summit highlighted hopes pinned on the youth, who account for approximately one third of Palestinian society. Unemployment among graduates has been on an upward trajectory, reaching as high as 58 percent according to the latest figures released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2019. Putting the future of development at risk, unemployment requires that real and integrated partnerships be built between Palestinian civil society organisations, ensuring that young people are actively engaged in the development effort. Young people will be further empowered and have the skills and information needed to lead a community movement, which is capable of making a change and exerting an influence for a better future.
Dr. Shtayyeh: We encourage models consistent with the Cluster Development Strategy
In his statement, Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Shtayyeh said he was glad that the youth village was achieved by thinking outside the box. Following the example of these young people, it is important that this proposed model is rolled out to various regions. Models will not be limited to the agriculture sector, but should also be focused on various sectors, including technology, industry, handicrafts, etc.
According to Shtayyeh, the government is willing to provide assistance to the projects, which are in line with the government’s Cluster Development Strategy. The particular and competitive advantage of each governorate helps to create a balance development process. This kind of entrepreneurship contributes to reducing unemployment. The government is challenged by a soaring unemployment rate among graduates, particularly those in the 22-29 age group. On the other hand, no unemployment is accounted for among the youth working in manual trades.
Shtayyeh announced that, during the next few months, employment and risk reduction funds would be consolidated into the Development Bank. These will grant soft loans to productive projects run by the youth.
Ms. Ratibah Abu Ghosh, Chairwoman of Sharek Board of Directors, commended young people’s informed participation in the Youth Summit. Abu Ghosh called for allocating abandoned state land to the youth. The youth need to use all available resources sot that they build a more beautiful homeland.
In his remarks, Mr. Majdi Abu Zeid, Executive Director of AMAN, asserted that the Youth Summit was a culmination of joint activity with the youth. In addition to raising their awareness of the agriculture sector, these young people received training and practice at AMAN’s Integrity School. Abu Zeid stressed that the youth’s recommendations should be taken seriously. To invest in land, young people’s participation should be promoted by putting in place development-oriented agricultural policies. Abu Zeid also highlighted the importance of approving the Law on the Right of Access to Information is a cornerstone of oversight, participation, and decision-making processes.
Mr. Fuad Abu Seif, Executive Director of UAWC, viewed the Cooperative Youth Village as a development model par excellence. Creatively, it draws a link between the agriculture sector and the youth, setting a practical example of the concept of sovereignty over resources.
The youth gave a detailed account of the Youth Village and Cooperative Youth Village models. Having introduced the idea, the youth made a presentation on a proposed expansion scheme of the village, including buildings, services, and agricultural areas. The youth also cast light on the Cooperative Youth Village and how it can be replicated as a model in the defence of land.
The youth submitted recommendations and called on the Prime Minister to adopt and approve them. Of these, the MoA should be committed to implement its strategic objectives, policies and budget allocations in order to contribute to supporting and developing the agriculture sector and farmers. Livestock import procedures will be made publicly available. The prices of imported livestock will be announced to consumers. Reports on imports and levied taxes will be published. In addition to field contact, the MoA will adhere to enhancing services provided to both male and female farmers, including in the areas of prevention, extension and veterinary services. Quantitative and qualitative annual reports will be released on the complaints received and handled. Farmers will have a system that provides guidance information on the indicators of supply and demand for agricultural produce. Agricultural production inputs will be tax exempted with a view to supporting farmers. Specific to the agriculture sector, a tax refund system will adopted and reported to farmers. The Employment Fund will earmark a budget allocation in support of entrepreneurial agricultural projects. Particularly in rural areas, a land settlement process will be launched to maintain and adjudicate land titles. MoA extension services on the use of pesticides will be scaled up. The MoA will play a more effective role in the oversight of prohibited pesticides. Combined with a package of incentives, agricultural disciplines will be offered and approved by higher education institutions with a view to providing the local market with professional, technical and up-to-date expertise. Success stories of agricultural education will be rolled out to stimulate and encourage students to enrol in agricultural programmes.
Additionally, the youth recommended that the government’s plan on land reclamation be implemented, particularly in the governorate of Hebron. Diesel will be made available to put artesian wells into operation. Agricultural vehicles will be put in the service of farmers. Agricultural roads will be constructed behind the Wall. Government support will be provided by reducing the electricity tariff. Tax exemptions will be granted to production inputs. Under the supervision of the Palestinian Water Authority, water supply will be secured to farmers at affordable prices. A legal terms of reference will be developed for the compensation of farmers. A code of professional conduct will be approved to prevent conflicts of interests and acceptance of gifts in relation to compensations.