Twinning network Conference in Al Bireh, Palestine 4th May 2013
Report by Andree Ryan (Chair of the Britain Palestine Twinning Network)
This is as accurate as possible; apologies if I forgot anyone or anything (please let me know)
About 45 people gathered in the Al Bireh Municipality to attend the above.
Al Bireh is just on the outskirts of Ramallah and the Mayor kindly offered the venue for this year’s conference.
There were 19 Palestinian groups represented:
Al Bireh (Northampton)
Abu Dis (Camden)
Beit Leed (Pendle)
Jenin (Tower Hamlet, London)
Husan (St Albans)
Sabastiya (Hanwell, West London)
Yanoun (international Network)
Unfortunately not many of their UK counterparts attended as the conference date was announced at a short notice. Delegates from Hanwell, Watford, Oxford, Yanoun International Network, and Hastings were present as well as young volunteers from CADFA.
Three members of the UK committee: Andree Ryan, Chair, Jean Fitzpatrick, Treasurer and Gill Knight, Secretary, were also present
The conference was opened by Mohammad Aruri, Chair of the Palestinian Network, who welcomed everyone and introduced the formal speakers. Below I have resumed the speeches:
1) The mayor of Al Bireh, Mr Fawzi spoke briefly: he expressed the hope that all these twinning and friendship links will put pressure on the UK politicians to push for a Palestinian State. The main aim of twinning is not to provide resources but to help us achieve this goal
2) The Chair of the Britain Palestine twinning Network, Andree Ryan: she spoke in Arabic and thanked Nandita the outgoing chair for creating this network; she also thanked the Al Bireh Municipality and all those who came from all over the West Bank. She listed all the 27 members of the network. She clarified the difference between official twinning and friendship links; most members belong to the latest category and are very active. She listed the three main aims of the UK network for this year:
- Develop the network with new links; each group can start another one nearby.
- Improve communications between our two committees and between our twins, we hope that both committees will help each other in sorting out failing communications.
- Cooperation: between twins, the stronger ones helping the weaker ones in the same region and the development of joint initiatives regionally or nationally
3) Youssef Awad, secretary of the Palestinian Network: he thanked the Al Bireh Municipality and the attendees. The main goal of a friendship link is human relations that will help develop awareness among British people. Awareness at different levels: social, economical and political. Twinning work transcends factionalism and creates unity. He would like to see twins publish their activities in a monthly newsletter, a better website, the network to have an official status (registered charity), better communication all round and Palestinians meeting during the year and not just at the conference. Finally he asks all of us to develop different campaigns to support Palestine (eg prisoners)
4) Gill Knight Secretary of the UK Network: Twinning gives a positive message about Palestine. Friendship breaks barriers and promotes understanding, all this takes effort and time, and we have to raise our profile here and in the UK. 3 main points: team work, better communication, strong active committees. Finally she read a support message from Liverpool.
The Governor of Al Bireh and the British Consul were invited but could not make it
The floor was then open to all groups to talk about what they have been doing. The activities ranged from supporting local non violent actions to sending volunteer teachers, experts and students, building classrooms, campaign on issues in the UK, visits, planting trees, helping in the harvest, importing goods, developing tourism by bringing groups, dialogues between schools, women visits, advocacy in UK….
After a light lunch we were split in three groups to discuss three topics, feedback is below
- The aims of twinning:
1) Create awareness and understanding in UK to support Palestinian rights by reaching all the British communities through developing friendship and human relations outside politics.
2) Friendship is a key word. We must involve as many people as possible.
3) Put pressure on UK government
4) Develop tourism, tours must be educational
5) Any project must be of development
6) Focus more on schools and universities to put the Palestine issue on the map
- How to make the links active:
- Establishing a web page for the network in which all news of the twinning groups can publish their activities
- Organising other committee which can specialise in a specific responsibility inside the network e.g sports, environment issues
- Organising training building capacity workshops for members of the network
- Visits between the UK and Palestine so that they can share experiences and build the relationship, organise trips etc
- Organise an annual summer camp for Palestine and the UK
- Organise an annual mutual sport activity eg football match between UK and Palestinians teams
- Action plan
This group felt they could not put together an action plan without knowing the aims/priorities of the twinning network. Any action plan (for ideas/projects) needs people to be actively involved. Talking is helpful but needs to lead somewhere. The new committee should identify
a) What are their priorities?
b) Who will take each idea forward?, how? and by when?
c) Progress needs to be monitored and followed … and not just left to chance, or to some other meeting.
d) Individuals need to step forward and volunteer to take on tasks.
They felt strongly that the network needs urgently a good website and two people volunteered to take this forward: Arafat Abu Rass and Mohammed Hanini
We discussed the possibility of having one website for the two networks (UK and Palestine)
Finally a new committee was chosen:
Marwan Weshahee from Jenin
Youssef Awad from Jenin
Ahmad Kayed from Sabastiya
Arafat Abu Ras from Assawiya
Mohamad Aruri from Ramallah
Shada Zaydiyeh from Salfeet