"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Citizens of Gaza Speak Out Against Violence
The goal of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI) in West Bank and Gaza is to increase the Palestinian government's responsiveness to citizen priorities. Working with national and municipal governments, local nongovernmental organizations, informal community groups, and media outlets, OTI identifies and supports critical initiatives designed to move the region along the continuum from conflict to peace. In-kind grants to Palestinian entities support positive interaction between local government institutions, the Palestinian Authority, local communities and civil society organizations, and promote participatory decision-making at the community level. Since the program began in June 2005, 52 grants have been cleared for implementation. USAID/OTI's current implementing partner for this initiative is ARD Inc.
Despite the cold and rain, 2,000 citizens peacefully gathered and marched on Dec. 20 at Al Muntada, the Presidential Office in Gaza City. The protesters demanded an end to violence and restoration of law and order. Arriving in 40 buses from every corner of the Gaza Strip, the participants represented all segments of the population: children, students, workers, women, men, and civic leaders. They all expressed in word and action their right to live in peace and safety.
The Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, a nongovernmental organization partially funded by USAID/OTI, has been building a community-based awareness and mobilization campaign to promote communication, trust and collaboration between communities and security agencies to restore safety and security. Initially the center conducted public polling to assess citizen priorities and concerns. A series of 24 town hall meetings and two national workshops were held that brought together citizens, community leaders and Palestinian Authority officials to discuss safety concerns, re-initiate communication, and develop intervention strategies. A simultaneous multi-media campaign was implemented to help build public support for the rule of law and respect for official security services as the solution to public safety. This phase of the campaign culminated in the peaceful public demonstration to raise awareness and demand public and Palestinian Authority intervention to address the violence and chaos. In response, Rafiq Al-Husseini, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' chief of staff, repeated the president's commitment to ending lawlessness throughout all governorates. Al-Husseini noted that the security and police apparatuses have started a security campaign to this end in a number of cities in Gaza and the West Bank.
A mother, participating in the demonstration with her children, effectively expressed her motivation for attending: "I worry about my children going to school every day - we only hope to live in peace." A message read by Maeam Hamid, a child, called for improved safety and security and holding violators accountable. All participants in the demonstration called upon President Abbas to take decisive measures to control security and expressed confidence in the Palestinian Authority to take decisive measures. The event was carried live by local Palestinian television, picked up by international news networks such as Al Arabia and Al Jazeera, and covered extensively by the local and international print media.
USAID/OTI is already exploring how to build upon this demonstrated citizen priority and momentum.
For further information, please contact:
In Washington, D.C.: Justin Sherman, Asia and Near East Team Leader, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org