The Orient House
Youth Development Department
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), 63% of the population of Jerusalem is now below 24 years of age. Palestinian youth have played a pivotal role in the struggle for Palestinian rights and statehood, especially trough the Intifada (1987-1994), during which this population sector grew up and was affected by the experiences of that particular period.
Closure of educational institutions, extended curfews, confrontations with Israeli soldiers, house demolitions, long imprisonment, strikes and the breakdown authority have all left deep marks on the often called "Lost Generation's" attitude and aspirations.
Following the Oslo Accord in 1993 and its political changes, the roles and the responsibilities of the youth have greatly shifted. Instead of leading demonstrations and confrontations with the Israeli soldiers, youngsters should now begin to build their society in a democratic and civil manner.
The current context of the Al-Aqsa Intifada which begun on the 29st September 2000 has dramatically degraded the already precarious conditions of living of the Palestinian youth. Its death toll speaks for itself: 400 deads and around 18000 injured, many of them disabled for the rest of their life.
In this tragic context the need for youth education and a democratic society is bigger than ever, and the Youth Development Department aims to be part of this vital process for the Palestinian youth.
Statement of Need
While Palestinian youth organizations in Jerusalem have adapted to the new political environment, they have to face several challenges.
Firstly, the magnitude of the target group. With 63% of the population in Jerusalem now below 24 years of age and 21% between 15-24 years, the target group has expanded past the capacity of local institutions. This growing segment of the population is left extremely vulnerable to conditions which remain grossly inadequate.
Secondly, the many problems faced by the Palestinian youth. For one, the poor economic condition leaves many youngsters unemployed. The lack of adequate educational facilities in Palestinian areas of Jerusalem has also left many of them without a proper education: one study even indicates that 40% of Palestinian secondary students in the Old City drop out, mostly due to reasons of substandard education and financial responsibilities to their families. These difficult circumstances have given rise to a host of symptomatic problems resulting drug abuse, child labor and domestic violence, among others.
These poor economical and social conditions in Jerusalem have also limited the development of youth institutions. According to a recent survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, while 43 sport clubs exist in Jerusalem, only five of them are dedicated to the enrichment of youth and youth activities. These institutions lack resources in the area of networking, in particular youth exchange programs. There is a need for more coordination among these clubs and with local NGOs involved in youth programs.
The Orient House
The Orient House is the leading Palestinian institution in Jerusalem. It functions as a government office in the city for all the Palestinian residents, and enjoys the full recognition of most of the foreign governments.
The Orient House started operating in the late eighties, and went through different stages of forced closure by the Israeli governments, and by its own internal transformation.
When the PLO offices were still in Tunis, the Orient House operated as the PLO leadership in the Palestinian Territories. During the first Intifada period (87-93), it became the center of nationalism and decision making for all the Palestinian territories.
In the late eighties, the Orient House took the leading role in the Madrid conference and managed fully the follow-up in Washington.
Today, after the Oslo process and the new Intifada, the Orient House keeps its leading role regarding the final status negotiations, in particular the negotiations over Jerusalem. Any future for the city of Jerusalem will be shared with the Orient House, as the Orient House is the Palestinian address in Jerusalem.
The Youth Development Department
As the Orient House considers youth as an essential part of the future development of Jerusalem, it has taken the initiative to establish a specialized department exclusively dedicated to this population sector. The department aims to support the youth initiatives and to provide them with a spectrum of opportunities both locally and internationally. The Youth Development Department (YDD) focuses on developing youth institutions through youth programs and training courses, networking and coordination of the existing capacities.
The main goal of the Youth Development Department is to support and improve the capacities of local youth institutions in Jerusalem and clubs by providing them with the resources and contacts necessary to establish youth exchange and enrichment programs. This goal will be achieved through the following objectives:
Our projects are targeted at:
Stage one: assessment of Needs and Resources
The first step of the establishment of the YDD will be the launching of a survey and assessment of local youth institutions. This step will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will give us a clear picture about the existing local institutions. This will avoid overlap and any possible waste of resources in the future.
the survey will familiarize the local youth institutions with the staff
of YDD and with its resources and programs. In this way, partnerships
with local institutions will be established at the earliest stages.
Stage two: building capacity program
the needs, capacities, resources of the youth organizations are defined
and the youth leaders identified, several workshops will be held to train
them to design youth activities and to run youth institutions. Thus, the
youth organizations will be able to fulfill their needs within themselves.
(On their request and owing to the urgent needs of the Youth organizations,
the implementation of these workshops will take place before the assessment
of needs and resources).
Stage three: forming a Youth Forum for youth leaders in Jerusalem (September 2001):
After the workshop, another forum will be held with youth leaders to nominate candidates in the General Assembly of Youth Leaders. It will be composed of activists of youth institutions, clubs, intellectuals and counselors. Such forum will discuss, propose and evaluate the departments different programs and activities.
Stage four: final evaluation and future planning (October November 2001):
From the strategies provided in the workshops, the general assembly will produce the final evaluation of the previous activities of the year and will define the future planning for the coming year (2002).
The Youth Development Department has already begun to implement its action plan through the organization of different activities:
have already organized international and local work camps in Jerusalem
and in France with our French partner, Solidarités Jeunesses. These
work camps will enable Palestinian youth to discover the voluntary and
Two young people sent to participate in an international work camp in cooperation with Solidarités Jeunesses in France (September 2000)
participated in many international training courses and seminars in
Palestine and in Europe for youngsters to get the tools and resources
to run and to manage youth programs and activities.
We emphasize our efforts on local activities through training courses and meetings to better assess the Palestinian youth's needs and resources:
The youth Development Department has established links of cooperation with INGOs and Governmental Organizations such as the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the UNESCO, Youth Action for Peace, the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service, the ICYE, the Mediterranean Youth Forum, and the European Youth Forum.
Locally, the YDD has already established sound relationships with the Nidal Center, the International Palestinian Youth League, the Sports Clubs League, the Old City Youth Association, and around 15 other local institutions.
main resources of funds are based on local and international donors such
as the UNDP, the Ford Foundation, through different projects being implemented
by the department.
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