Dec 01, 2023
Integrating Palestinian Youth into International Development Efforts Between Reality and Speculations - Tamara Teebi
Tamara Teebi

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Tamara Teebi

Integrating Palestinian Youth into International Development Efforts Between Reality and Speculations - Tamara Teebi
The 2030 SDGs: a Trojan Horse
The Trojan between the Trojans and the Greeks took place in modern-day Turkey. However, Troy was one of the most heavily fortified and impenetrable cities. The Greeks could not storm it, so they constructed a hollowed-out wooden horse, hiding Greek soldiers as their army pretended to be defeated and retreating, which gave the Trojans a sense of security. The Greeks offered the horse as a peace offering. Later, the soldiers stormed out of the horse. The city was looted and destroyed without mercy. They killed the men and enslaved the women.[i]
Are we facing a deception that resembles a modern-day Trojan horse but with different concepts, context, time, and place than before, under agendas, programs, and names that we sometimes accept eagerly and passionately? The world has unanimously agreed on the SDGs as an international agenda and guiding normative framework to which countries have pledged to implement their commitments. However, does it embody a deception and a distraction to divert the world's attention from national and sovereign concerns, distracting them with development issues? Moreover, after the events of 7 October 2023, do Palestinian youth involved in the SDG process still believe and trust in any paths that draw hope and confidence in a better future?
SAFIR: A Model of Renewed Hope and Confidence
Safir is an aspiring project covering nine countries in the MENA region (Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Algeria) funded by the EU. It seeks to build youth capacities to advocate for SDGs and promote economic inclusion, engaging youth in national, regional, and international decision-making processes to achieve progress on the 2030 SDGs.
The project impacted around 400 young people from the MENA region, including 68 from Palestine. As young Palestinians, the journey to acquire knowledge on board SAFIR enabled us to formulate policies at the decision-making table through development interventions developed by youth in the national strategies of many Palestinian ministries. They included the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Social Development. We also elaborated on development interventions in the strategies of UN agencies active in Palestine, including UNFPA, UNESCO, and UN Women.
Through Safir, Palestinian youth began playing a role in conveying the recommendations of the 2022 and 2023 SAFIR Program participants to the high-level political forum (HLPF) held annually in New York. Most of these contributions have strengthened the confidence and hope of Palestinian youth in their role in charting development paths for future generations. The recommendations were in line with the global vision for future generations represented by “Our Common Agenda,” adopted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2022, ensuring the representation of youth in decision-making.[ii]
As first-generation graduates of the SAFIR program, we contributed to designing and developing its complementary programs, including the “Youth Empowerment for Development Goals and Gender Equality” program for the benefit of youth in the West Bank, implemented by the Palestinian Organization Shiam. We participated as leaders and partners in the program's design process and selection of beneficiaries. We directed them in transforming the campaigns aimed at achieving progress on SDG Goals 5 and 10 related to reducing gender equality around the West Bank into campaigns to advocate for women and premature children in the Gaza Strip in response to the crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide against Palestinian citizens in Gaza following the events of October 7, with women and children making up 75% of the victims.
Palestinian youth have been designing SDG advocacy campaigns, achieving progress that was not expected to reach beyond Goals 5 and 10, including Goals 16 and 17, which relate to building peace and justice, building strong institutions, and establishing partnerships among youth. They also worked on consolidating various forms of solidarity and cohesion to overcome the occupation's objectives in separating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, thus forming a glimmer of hope in restoring demographic and political unity.
The SDG Trojan Horse After the 7th of October 2023
"I lived through five wars, but the events of this war are unprecedented and the most painful." says Youssef, a young SAFIR graduate from the Gaza Strip. The war torpedoed all international and national development efforts in the Gaza Strip, and the level of development of the State of Palestine was pushed back between 11 and 16 years.[iii] There are no longer any essential development components from the first to the seventeenth goal, from eradicating poverty to building partnerships.
A month into the war, poverty rates in the Gaza Strip are expected to rise by 20%, raising the youth unemployment rate from 45% to 60%.[iv] The war has also disrupted the educational process, caused food insecurity, and made the population dependent on primitive means of transportation due to fuel outages, damage to buildings and infrastructure such as sewage and communication networks, a deterioration in the health situation with hospitals out of service, the spread of epidemics and diseases due to a lack of medicines and treatment, and an increase in environmental pollution due to the dropping of more than 25 thousand tons of explosives, equivalent to two nuclear bombs or 10 kilograms of explosives per person.[v]
Is it possible for Palestinian youth, specifically SAFIR Program graduates from the Gaza Strip, to regain confidence and hope in international development programs after all these humanitarian disasters and the loss of a soul like Tariq Thabet, the young, ambitious, and persistent engineer who sought, through joining the SAFIR program, to develop himself to be able to develop and support young people in Gaza, hoping for this opportunity to build a better future for himself and future generations.
Is it reasonable for young people who have learned lessons about development, human rights, democracy, and peacebuilding over the past years to regain hope and confidence in these lessons after seeing that these rights only receive attention when influential people are concerned?
The SDGs Are not a Trojan Horse
SAFIR sought to strengthen partnership-building throughout its program. However, the process could not be completed in this final event. SAFIR's closing ceremony took place in Paris in November 2023 as the war continued to rage. After 40 days of war, the forces of good in the entire world could not stop it. Thus, it consumed those present in thought and spirit, as it prevented young program participants from Gaza from joining their peers in the closing ceremony.
Nevertheless, Gaza and its youth were masters of the situation with all the show of solidarity and support. Their voices were heard through their compatriots from the West Bank. Full of hope, the Palestinian youth present called on the international community to intensify all development efforts in the Gaza Strip in the post-war period, restoring confidence and renewing hope in the principles of democracy, human rights, and the various developmental and peace-building paths for Palestinian youth, redressing their feelings of disappointment, and proving that the SDGs are the basis for prosperity for the planet, the land, and the people, and not a tool for diversion and deception like a Trojan horse trick.
Tamara Teebi
‏‪[i]‬ حصان طروادة، 12 مارس 2018، ‪‬1
‏‪[ii] The Our Common Agenda report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, March 2022,‬
‏‪[iii] "Gaza War: Expected Socio-Economic Impacts on the State of Palestine," Preliminary Estimations until 5 November 2023, UNDP Arab States, 8/11/2023,‬
‏‪[iv] UNDP, 2023, Ibid.‬
‏‪[v] "Israel hits Gaza Strip with the equivalent of two nuclear bombs," Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, 2/11/2023,‬

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