In light of assessing the responsiveness of the internal processes of political parties towards enhancing the political participation of Palestinian youth, 80% of youth are present in local and grassroot committees, while only 1% hold leadership roles
The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development-REFORM implemented reflection sessions to assess the representation level of women and youth in leadership committees of Palestinian political parties, in accordance with internal processes and the political program of political parties. The first session was carried out with the attendance of the Deputy Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Mr. Qais Abd Al-Karim, and Palestinian Popular Struggle Front Leader, Dr. Ahmad Majdalani, aiming to evaluate the responsiveness of the internal parties’ processes towards enhancing the political participation of youth, specifically women, and identify the reasons behind the recent reluctance of youth’s engagement in political activity. The first session aimed as well at developing recommendations based on the position paper that was developed earlier to compare between the expected and the actual level of youth participation within political parties.
Based on the results of the survey that was conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) on the International Youth Day, the youth sector (20-29) constitutes 64% of the Palestinian society, while 1% of them are holding decision-making positions.
With regards to the reluctance of 18% of youth to participate in the democratic process, it is worth mentioning that the lack of youth’s confidence in the political system and political parties is one of the main reasons that hinder their full political participation. Therefore, youth are calling for reforming the political system and the non-supportive prevailing cultural, social and political structures that resulted in decreasing the level of youth representation within political parties, particularly in leadership positions, keeping political parties floundering in the past and lacking a youth vision and a systematic intellectual renewal.
The extent to which political programs are responsive to the interests of youth
Despite the slogans and speeches of political parties that praise the youth and calls for addressing their concerns, the Palestinian political parties and movements are almost devoid of explicit reference to assigning spaces for youth in their decision making centers or limiting the positioning period for leaders, to allow the opportunities for youth to hold decision making roles within parties. Moreover, women and youth are deprived from any real opportunities to participate in programs within political parties, due to the lack of youth-oriented programs that allow them be involved in political debates and to assume leading positions. Thus, these parties lack new innovative ideas of youth as well as other mechanisms that are responsive to the needs of youth.
According to the internal processes of the Democratic Front, -modified system revised draft-membership eligibility age is (16) years. In addition, upon completing 4 years of membership, members have the right to re-nominate themselves to all leadership committees; the representation of women within the party’s agencies is 25% with a set of determinants that limit access to that ratio, as well as the representation of youth ratio, since the youth represent a ratio of 80% in local and basal bodies and only 1% in leadership positions.
According to the internal processes of the Popular Struggle Front, the membership eligibility is (18) years; members have the right to re-nominate themselves to all leadership bodies upon completing 1 year of membership. The representation of women in the party’s bodies in 30%; and a third of the current central committee consists of youth after adding 11 new members including (9 youth and 2 women)
Furthermore, a large gap is found between the digital indicators stated in the internal processes of the two parties with regards to the representation of women and youth within parties and the actual representation level of women and youth. Therefore, the representation of women and youth should be enhanced in accordance with the current internal processes of youth parties especially at leadership positions?
Political and social determinants
Party action is affected by a set of political and social determinants. Participants, with the participation of the parties’ leaders, recommended the following:
- Bringing about change in cultural and social structures, as recognition of merit and loyalty to leadership result in unproductive leadership structure and social institutions.
- Due to the limited leadership experience and the lack of the local community’s support to the youth’s leadership energy, participants called for raising the awareness of party members and the local community to promote social and cultural activity.
- Participants stressed the need for establishing a social and political unity to face the transitional phase that the Palestinian society is currently undergoing. This phase has largely affected the action of political parties, as youth began to lose trust in political parties, which may lead afterwards to the emergence of suspicious agendas that use social fault lines to widen the gaps between different social components and harm the Palestinian social fabric.
A step towards enhancing the participation of women and youth:
Mr. Qais Abd Al-Karim and Dr. Ahmad Majdalani pledged during the first session to revise the two parties’ internal processes and ensure that women and youth are better represented at leadership committees through a fair democratic electoral processes within the parties.
This activity is part of The “Rooftop Debate – Drivers of Political Change” project aims to create a network of powerful social and political young leaders and equip them with supporting tools that enable them to create social change by directing them to find solutions to their problems and concerns, which promotes social cohesion, ensures pluralism and strengthens civil peace within society. The project also seeks to provide safe and interactive platforms that connect young activists with representatives of Government bodies and civil society organizations, in order to capacitate youth to voice out their concerns and engage in shaping public policies that are more responsive to their social and political needs.
This project is implemented in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Foundation