Ramallah : Signature of an Innovative Project to Support Youth and Socio-Economic Development in the Gaza Strip
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Denys Bédarride
Thursday 7 April 2022 Last update on Thursday, April 7, 2022 At 6:00 AM

Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA), Rula Ma’ayah signed today with the Agence Française de Development (AFD), the French Consul General Rene Troccaz and Première Urgence Internationale an agreement to launch a 5-year project to Support Youth and Socio-Economic Development in the Monastery of Saint Hilarion in the Gaza Strip, as part of the INTIQAL 2030 program. 

The project will be implemented in cooperation and partnership between MoTA, Premiere Urgence Internationale, cultural institutions and the local community.

Located on the coast in the municipality of Nuseirat, in the center of the Gaza Strip, the Monastery of Saint Hilarion – Tell um el-‘Amr – is the oldest and largest monastery in Palestine. Discovered in the 1997, it has been the subject of several archaeological clearance and reconnaissance campaigns, conducted under the direction of the EBAF (French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem). Included in 2011 on the list of Monuments in Danger by the World Monuments Funds, then on the indicative list of UNESCO, its heritage value has been gradually recognized internationally. 

Programs to safeguard the archaeological site have intensified in recent years. An agreement with the British Council Cultural and Protection Fund has enabled the French NGO Première Urgence Internationale to carry out from 2017 to 2022 a major operation to preserve and protect the remains of the Saint Hilarion site, including training actions for young Gazan students and actions to enhance the cultural value of the site. The Monastery of Saint Hilarion is the only archaeological site open to the public in the Gaza Strip, and has welcomed in recent years more than 10,000 visitors per year.

The project overall objective is to establish St Hilarion site as a venue for social & economic development for youth in the Gaza Strip, through:

The setup of ambitious infrastructures and site enhancement to ensure protection of the site, based on the recommendation of the MoTA-led Conservation and Management Plan (CMP) with UNESCO; and the construction of a protective cover above the archeological remains.

– The creation of an interpretation centre, for the reception of the public and specifically youth as well as the development of cultural activities, scientific mediation, exhibitions for the benefit of the population of Gaza Strip, allowing the valorization of the site among youth and the local communities with a view to boost the local economic fabric and social cohesion and support the resilience and well-being of young people.

– The Development of an ambitious and comprehensive training programme targeting youth and MoTA staff in the field of heritage preservation, restoration and valorization, cultural mediation, site management and technical maintenance, scientific and cultural programming.

Outreach activities aiming at promoting the site of St Hilarion in East-Jerusalem and in the West Bank through the establishment of exhibitions and innovative tools.

– The Co-construction of by-laws and coordination mechanisms with MoTA and based on CMP recommendations to establish local communities’ committees, strategic board, scientific committee to develop a stable governance framework to ensure sustainable management of the site in a perspective of long-term strategic development.

This project thus will set in motion a virtuous circle by linking the themes of heritage preservation, long- term economic development, cultural and social development, allowing multiple benefits in terms of sustainable development, strengthening the resilience of local populations and the promotion of Palestinian cultural heritage at local and international levels.

The project overall objective is to establish St Hilarion site as a venue for social & economic development for youth in the Gaza Strip, through:

The setup of ambitious infrastructures and site enhancement to ensure protection of the site, based on the recommendation of the MoTA-led Conservation and Management Plan (CMP) with UNESCO; and the construction of a protective cover above the archeological remains.

– The creation of an interpretation centre, for the reception of the public and specifically youth as well as the development of cultural activities, scientific mediation, exhibitions for the benefit of the population of Gaza Strip, allowing the valorization of the site among youth and the local communities with a view to boost the local economic fabric and social cohesion and support the resilience and well-being of young people.

– The Development of an ambitious and comprehensive training programme targeting youth and MoTA staff in the field of heritage preservation, restoration and valorization, cultural mediation, site management and technical maintenance, scientific and cultural programming.

Outreach activities aiming at promoting the site of St Hilarion in East-Jerusalem and in the West Bank through the establishment of exhibitions and innovative tools.

– The Co-construction of by-laws and coordination mechanisms with MoTA and based on CMP recommendations to establish local communities’ committees, strategic board, scientific committee to develop a stable governance framework to ensure sustainable management of the site in a perspective of long-term strategic development.

This project thus will set in motion a virtuous circle by linking the themes of heritage preservation, long- term economic development, cultural and social development, allowing multiple benefits in terms of sustainable development, strengthening the resilience of local populations and the promotion of Palestinian cultural heritage at local and international levels.

INTIQAL 2030 is a Youth-led initiative supported by Première Urgence Internationale, an innovative socio- economic development program that leverages on the protection of Cultural Heritage involving communities and local civil society stakeholders, encouraging their interaction on archaeological sites. This initiative creates and runs a safe space in which girls, boys, young people and families engage in concrete actions and express their fears and hopes in a protective environment while developing their resilience following violent or traumatic experiences. 

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