Ramallah, Palestine - The inaugural meeting of the Youth Shadow Council of the Executive Office for Refugees was convened, marking the launch of the project's first phase by REFORM Association as part of its Yla project. The meeting was held at the Executive Office for Palestinian Refugees in Ramallah and was attended by Mr. Mahmoud Mubarak, the Executive Office's Head, Mr. Ahmed Zouqan, a member of the Executive Office and the Oopular Committee for the Balata camp, Mr. Nasser Sharayha, the Director of the Executive Office, Mr. Nadim Qandil and Ms. Ola Al-Barghouti from REFORM. The 19-member Youth Shadow Council also attended to represent various refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Mubarak commenced the meeting by welcoming the attendees and praising the youth for their active participation, underscoring the necessity of their involvement in the representative bodies of the refugee camps and their crucial role in addressing and advocating for the issues and interests of their communities. Additionally, he reiterated the office's commitment to provide comprehensive support and resources to empower and enable youth engagement in the decision-making process.

Mr. Zouqan also spoke at the meeting, emphasising the vital role of committees in promoting awareness and understanding among youth regarding their daily lives and the impact of their decisions on their communities. He further stressed the importance of fostering partnerships between youth and relevant stakeholders to develop effective interventions and initiatives to enhance youth engagement and encourage greater participation in civic affairs.

In turn, Mrs. Al-Barghouti spoke about the purpose of establishing the council, which aims to enhance the presence of youth in public affairs by exercising their leadership roles through meeting with members of popular committees to express their needs and interests. This is preceded by an empowering process aimed at developing their leadership abilities, as well as their skills in influencing, communicating, public speaking and addressing needs.

During the meeting between the youth and their hosts from the Executive Office, the youth inquired about the composition of the popular committees, their structure, decision-making mechanisms, the main issues, the relationship of the office with other players in the camps and the role of youth in the coming phase under the establishment of the Youth Shadow Council. They emphasised the importance of partnership between youth and governing committees in the camps, as expressed by Youth Council member Ms. Israa Assaf from Qalandia camp.

Mr. Sharaia provided detailed explanations, reaffirming the importance of this partnership and the need for representative bodies in the camps to have active youth as a vital part of camp issues. He provided an overview of the Executive Office's vision, goals, interventions and the nature of committee’s work. He welcomed the idea of the Youth Council attending Executive Office meetings and presenting their peers' needs on the committee's agenda for discussion and necessary action.

This activity comes within the “Youth Led Action” project, implemented by The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development—REFORM, in partnership with (PARTII) Programme-GIZ, implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This project aims to empower marginalised young men and women to become agents of change within their societies. It seeks to combat the shrinkage of civic spaces in Palestine by creating a set of platforms for social mobilisation, opening channels of communication between different social fault lines and challenging power dynamics and youth exclusion. The project works to pave the way for structural change by creating youth shadow councils in refugee camps as well as community initiatives, while involving young women and men in decision-making processes and policies.