Written by: Dr. Omar Rahhal
There are many local initiatives concerned with issues of civil peace, whether they were social, civil, or factional all of which are seeking to achieve civil peace, specifically in light of the detected imminent danger to the Palestinian society. The questions that arise are why do governorates, cities, villages and camps launch individual initiatives and hold conferences and activities related to civil peace, at a time when the Palestinian National Authority formed a Supreme Council for Civil Peace? In my humble opinion, one of the reasons behind this is that citizens’ confidence in the political system is continuously declining. Along with the fact that official Palestinian institution operates alone, without coordination, consultation and joint action with civil society organisations related to the issue of civil peace.
The basic pillars of civil peace are reflected in the rule of law and its respect, which exist in an independent, impartial, transparent and agile judiciary. As well as the existence of a legislative institution with original constitutional competence, and accountability in enacting laws and amending existing ones. The most important pillars of civil peace, which must form a roadmap for the government, civil society organisations and social institutions to build a cohesive Palestinian society that rejects violence and crime are the following:
1. Excepting human rights, public and private freedoms,
2. promoting the values of tolerance and acceptance of the other
3. promoting the values of citizenship
4. respecting the rights of minorities, political pluralism and freedom of opinion and expression
5. having equal opportunities
6. enhancing social justice
7. confronting hate speech, violence
8. combating corruption
9. having security services with an effective role, manifested in protecting citizens and their property by implementing laws and protecting constitutional institutions.
Based on the above, if we want to maintain civil peace in the Palestinian society, we must all work as partners to protect it. This requires, in the first place, serious activation of the Supreme Civil Peace Council, which was established and approved by the Palestinian government, and establishing a full partnership with civil society and the private sector. This Council, and in order for it to take its role at the national level, must be a legal body with financial and administrative independence and must have a strategic plan from which an executive plan and an advisory council emerge. The activation of the Supreme Council for Civil Peace requires political willingness and extreme efforts by all official and civil competent authorities.
One of the most important functions of the state is to provide security for its citizens. This is true, but that does not excuse citizens from actively participating in the promotion and protection of civil peace, grounded by their democratic citizenship and loyalty to their homeland. In fact, it is part of their direct responsibility and an important role in strengthening and protecting the pillars of civil peace. Saying that there is a security institution and an executive, judicial and legislative authority responsible for civil peace (ALONE), is unfitting and detracts us from our citizenship, roles and responsibility to the Palestinian society. In fact, there is an important and vital role of civil society organisations, networks and coalitions in this regard, especially the Civil Coalition for Promoting Civil Peace and the Rule of Law. This Coalition took it upon itself from the first moment of its establishment to work in the field and open channels of communication, coordination and joint actions with the government in order to enhance civil peace and social cohesion, by presenting practical suggestions, holding conferences, workshops and seminars, and presenting its recommendations to decision-makers and the security services. In addition to the issuance of research, studies, position papers and policy papers, which provide practical and scientific visions and recommendations that can be built upon by the official institution when it issues its strategic and operational plans.
In summary, today we need more than ever to increase the effectiveness of coordination, networking and joint work between official and security services on the one hand and civil society organisations on the other, and at the forefront is the Civil Coalition for Promoting Civil Peace and the Rule of Law to promote civil peace in Palestine. This requires non-exclusion and the belief that there should be partnership between the various parties, as well as an active presence of civil society organisations in the governmental bodies concerned with civil peace. This is in addition to building capacities and training members of civil peace councils in various governorates, including the conduction of needs assessments for those councils, as well as for governorates, as an introduction to strengthening the relationship between the Civil Coalition for Promoting Civil Peace and the Rule of Law, and the various governorates of the country. This leads to the development of a road map and an integrated national strategy with short, medium and long-term objectives to promote civil peace, including official, security, cultural, religious and civil society organisations in integrated efforts and clear measurable goals according to a common vision.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.