In March 2015, the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory on an official visit to meet with Palestinian government and youth representatives. The mission aimed to shed light on youth development challenges and opportunities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to reiterate the commitment of the United Nations in supporting Palestinian youth.
Meetings with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Al Hamdullah stressed the importance of highlighting Palestinian youth issues and concerns among the relevant stakeholders noting employment, education, civic participation were key priories for youth in Palestine. President Abbas noted that he welcomed any initiative from the United Nations to support and advance youth issues in Palestine.
The Youth Envoy stressed the importance of engaging youth as government and civil society partners to promote equitable livelihoods for Palestinian youth.
The Envoy’s visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories included visits to community and welfare centers in the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank. In the Bilin Village in the West Bank, the Youth Envoy inaugurated the new Bilin Youth Club, supported by UNDP and the German Government.
In Gaza, the Youth Envoy shed light on the impact of the declining socioeconomic situation that has been in steady decline.
In meetings with the UNRWA’s Head of Operations, Mr. Rober Turner, and UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process, Mr. James Rawley, UNRWA officials described the situation in Gaza as a “de-developing process at all levels,” noting that years of conflict and the blockade has left 80 per cent of the population dependent on international assistance.
Other development challenges discussed included the demographic growth, power and electricity crisis, contaminated water in which more than 90 per cent of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption, lack of infrastructure, in addition to the blockade and continuous wars. According to UNRWA, unemployment continues to be at unprecedented levels in Gaza, particularly among young people.
The Envoy called to not allow humanitarian and social development in Gaza to be hindered by lack of political progress. “We urgently need to respond to this crisis,” urged Alhendawi.
Alhendawi’s met with youth organizations and youth councils. Notably, the Gaza Singing for Peace Group where the young Palestinian musicians explained they aimed to spreading messages of non-violence and peace and to raise the voices of youth asking for equal rights and peace.
At the Gaza Sports Club, the Youth Envoy participated in a series of football and basketball tournaments with youth, scoring 2 goals for the winning UNDP team!
In Alhendawi’s meeting with UN Country Teams in Palestine and the UN Theme Group on Youth in Palestine, UN representatives discussed the work of the United Nations on youth issues in Palestine in an array of development areas.
The official mission, supported by UNFPA, concluded with a donor briefing by the UN Youth Envoy where he urged to scale up investments in youth development in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Alhendawi emphasized the importance of prioritizing investment into programs that empower youth employment, life skills and civic participation.
“The resilience of Palestinian youth is inspiring,” noted Alhendawi. “Despite all the challenges of living in a community heavily impacted by conflict, the Palestinian youth that I encountered are committed to advocating for peace and prosperity. We need scale up investments to help them build their futures.”