Hbs Holds its First Young Leaders Academy on International Law and the Human Rights Situation in Jerusalem

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YLA’s group discussion on women’s rights according to international conventions

The Young Leaders Academy (YLA), a pilot project of hbs- Palestine and Jordan, brought together 26 young male and female young activists, experts, researchers, professionals and civil society actors from Jerusalem for five days to discuss, analyze, learn and network. Held in Jerusalem from 6-15 December 2022 under the title “International Law and the Human Rights Situation in Jerusalem”, the academy addressed the human rights situation in Jerusalem from various perspectives, including International law (IL) and International Humanitarian Law (IHL), women’s rights and youth empowerment. Through lectures, presentations and exchanges with experts and practitioners, the participants learned more about International law, its mechanisms and applications in Jerusalem. Moreover, they engaged in discussions and group work sessions on the social and political rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem, gender justice, women’s rights and the social and legal rights of youth. The theoretical part of the academy was reinforced through practical examples and case studies as well as visits organized to Jerusalemite communities threatened with eviction.

The five-day program consisted of three to four sessions daily, with lectures, discussion rounds, group work and concluded with a field trip. The first day, titled “Human Rights and International Law: Human Rights Situation in Jerusalem”, was kicked off with an opening session, where Dr. Riham Halaseh,  Head of hbs’ Democracy and Human Right Program, welcomed the participants and stressed the importance of the topics raised and the enhancement of the role of young male and female activists in Jerusalem. Mr. Rami Saleh from the Jerusalem Center for Human Rights (JCHR) gave a lecture on the Israeli illegal expansion in Jerusalem and provided an overview of the various Israeli settlement projects, land expropriation and evictions in Jerusalem. Dr. Munir Nuseibeh, Director of Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic at Al-Quds University, tackled the legal status of Jerusalem from the perspective of international law. The day was concluded with group work and discussions on social and political rights in Jerusalem, such as residency rights, participation, protection against revocations, family unifications, among others.

YLA participants presenting their group work during the training on advocacy and campaigning skills, as part of the Young Leaders Academy
YLA participants presenting their group work during the training on advocacy and campaigning skills

The second day dealt with “Gender Justice and Law: Gender Equality and Women’s Rights in Jerusalem”. Gender expert and human rights lawyer Adv. Halema Abu Solb presented her analyses of women's rights in the laws applied in Jerusalem, international agreements and UNSCR 1325. Additionally, Adv. Fatima Naseridin from the Jerusalem Centre for Human Rights (JCHR) focused on the social and economic rights of Jerusalemite women according to the Israeli laws applicable in Jerusalem. In the following session, the focus shifted to practical examples of women’s achievements and initiatives in Jerusalem, where Ms. Sahar Baidoun from Madaa Creative Center (MCC) introduced the “Jerusalemite Women Forum”, its creation, vision, goals and achievements. Afterwards, the participants discussed the challenges, achievements and risks facing Palestinian women in Jerusalem, their socio-political participation, gender-based violence and access to justice.

The third day revolved around “Youth Participation: Challenges and Aspirations of Jerusalemite Youth”. One of the sessions that was moderated by Mr. Nabil Abdallah from the JCHR, looked into the role of Jerusalemite youth as agents of change and explored the connection between volunteerism and the empowerment and sociopolitical participation of youth, youth movements and mobilization in Jerusalem. Adv. Firas Jibrini from MCC focused on the legal rights of youth in Jerusalem, the human rights violations they are subjected to and explained the legal and social protection mechanisms available to them. Consequently, the participants discussed in groups the Jerusalemite youth vision about their reality and the future in the city.

The fourth day was dedicated to empowering young leaders and enhancing their capacities, whereby an intensive day of training was held with focus on advocacy and campaigning skills for young human rights defenders. The training, carried out by advocacy expert and trainer Mr. Khalil Abu Khadeja, provided an overview on advocacy, communication and campaigning and worked with the participants in groups on campaigning strategies and how to conduct successful campaigns.

On the final day, participants took part in a field trip on “Forced Displacement in Jerusalem”, as they visited various communities in East Jerusalem such as Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, Nabi Smuel and the Old City of Jerusalem, which are facing eminent threats of eviction and displacement. The field trip included walking tours and meetings with representatives of these local communities. Adv. Osama Risheq, the Legal Supervisor at Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic of Al-Quds University, accompanied the group and provided background information on the various communities visited as well as insights into international law, human rights, and forcible displacement.

YLA Field Visit
YLA field visit to communities in East Jerusalem facing eminent threats of eviction and displacement

Besides thematic inputs from experts, the YLA’s daily program provided space for open discussions, exchange of ideas, and concluded with group work to receive the inputs and suggestions of participants. The program was also practice-oriented and aimed at enhancing the capabilities of the participants in advocacy, communications and campaigning skills. Moreover, the YLA has engaged different stakeholders, such as representatives of human rights organizations working in Jerusalem, lawyers, advocacy experts and representatives of various communities in Jerusalem.

The YLA has been a unique opportunity to exchange and learn in depth about the human rights situation in Jerusalem from various perspectives, to critically address the various problems and challenges facing young Jerusalemite activists and reflect on their achievements.