Youth Local Councils
Though youth constitute an overwhelming majority in the West Bank & Gaza (65% of the population is between 13-38 years old), there have been few opportunities for them to engage in community affairs and local governance. In response, Global Communities (Formerly CHF International) piloted the Youth Local Council initiative in four communities in 2008 in partnership with a local organization, Al-Mawrid with funding from USAID. After the success of the pilot, Global Communities expanded to an additional nine communities with local partner, the Sharek Youth Forum (Sharek) in 2010 under the USAID-funded Local Democratic Reform program (LDR). The initiative continues now under the USAID-funded Local Government & Infrastructure program (LGI) and will expand to an additional seven communities in 2013, for a total of 20 target communities.
Youth Local Councils (YLCs) are democratically elected bodies made up of 11-15 members aged 15-22. The council mirrors the elected local government unit (LGU, or municipality) in its size and formation. Working in partnership with the municipality, the purpose of the YLC is to sensitize youth to good governance practices and give them an opportunity to take a leadership role in their community. Through constant coaching and mentoring, Global Communities and Sharek support youth in the following phases:
1. Establishing General Assemblies in each Municipality: As of April 2013, the initiative has registered 28 General Assemblies in 15 municipalities. Over 8,000 Palestinian youth from across the West Bank have registered in their respective General Assembly and have the opportunity to vote for their council members.
2. Campaigning and Outreach to Voters: Any eligible General Assembly member can run for a seat on the council. Global Communities and Sharek train youth on how to campaign, speak to voters, and develop platforms, and support local debates among candidates.
3. Holding Democratic Elections and Forming the Council: In partnership with the municipality, Global Communities and Sharek facilitate the election process, recruit and train young election monitors, and ensure a democratic, transparent process. Once the results are in, the municipality certifies the elections and the council is formed, which includes key positions (Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Treasurer, and Secretary) mirroring the actual local council. The initiative has now completed 28 certified elections resulting in the election of over 300 council members.
4. Leadership & Skills Development: Once elected, youth are trained in a variety of skills, including project management, advocacy, and gender equality, preparing this cadre of young leaders for their new positions.
5. Establishing Local Partnerships and Alliances: The council then activates the General Assembly to engage with the municipality, civil society organizations, and local partners. This gives the council an understanding of what is needed in their community, what initiatives they could focus on and establishes local partnerships.
6. Supporting Youth-Led Local Activities: The hard work of the councils is implementing what have now totaled hundreds of local initiatives and activities impacting local communities. In close partnership with the municipality and local organizations, some previous initiatives have included beautifying parks and roads, career fairs, safety and traffic campaigns, and fundraising for local organizations.
Women's participation is prevalent in YLCs. Their participation has crossed beyond the symbolic, to dispel the common notion that the participation of women in Palestinian civil society is minimal and figurative. They remain at the forefront in YLCs elections, meetings, trainings, initiatives and community service activities.
YLC achievements under LDR:
Below are just a few of the recent community initiatives that were undertaken by YLCs
- 13 YLCs have planned and organized summer camps aiming to help develop youth leadership and familiarize youth with the mechanisms of local governance.
- Jericho's YLC finalized an initiative entitled �Youth Draw Their Future� aimed at helping high school students plan their future careers and target appropriate program of study in coordination with education counselors.
- In Bidya the members of the YLC implemented an environmental initiative which aims to improve the aesthetics of the town by removing solid waste dumps with the help of the local Solid Waste Committee and plant trees in their place Jericho's YLC is implementing an initiative to provide families in need with much needed material resources by public donation.
- In Beit Fajjar, the YLC cooperated with the local municipality and the Ministry of Local Government to conduct a workshop entitled Youth and Social Accountability in Local Government Units (LGUs) aimed at increasing awareness about the roles and responsibilities of local government as pertains to social accountability.
Also each YLC implemented public awareness campaigns selected in collaboration with each YLC's general assembly about issues they deemed as important for their local communities and municipalities. Below are some of the highlights:
- The YLCs of Jericho, Abu Dis, Beit Sahour, Anabta, Qabalan and Halhoul have all implemented initiatives under different names aiming to address environmental problems facing their communities. These initiatives have had impacts as the YLCs have taken the lead in cleaning streets, planting trees, placing benches and garbage bins in public areas and other activities to improve their communities.
- 8 YLCs helped organize and participated in the 2nd annual International Palestinian Diaspora Youth Conference in Dar-al Nadwa, Bethlehem. The conference focused on the role of local and global media in increasing the communication between Palestinian youth around the world. In addition, some of the YSCLs arranged field visits to various locations in the west Bank for the International Palestinian Diaspora Youth delegation to brief them on the situation of Palestinian Youth and the Palestinian communities' conditions in the West Bank. The YLCs of Ar-Ram and Beit Sahour implemented initiatives targeting traffic issues affecting their local communities including reducing traffic and congestion, marking roads and sidewalks, and educating youth on safe traffic procedures.
In addition, many youth engaged as YLC council members have gone on to leadership positions in their community, including:
- Yaqoub Marouf, elected to the At Taybeh Local Council this past election cycle
- Bashaer Othman, named the 'Youngest Palestinian Mayor' and most recently 'Youngest Palestinian Minister' from Illar who went on to become an international sensation
- Mohanned Taqatqa, former President of Beit Fajjar YLC was one of only 12 youth in the West Bank to receive the �Volunteer of the Year Award� from the Prime Minister in 2012.
Ultimately, this initiative is creating the next generation of Palestinian leaders who are knowledgeable and practiced n good governance approaches, including democratic and transparent elections, community participation, and accountability.
For more on this initiative, please see the following resources:
- YLC two-pager
- YLC Profile
- YLC Procedural Manual
- YLC Guide to Basic Skills
- YLC Conceptual Framework
- YLC Bylaws
- YLC website
- YLC video