Abeer Musleh

Bethlehem University | West Bank, Palestine

The Change of Culture of Youth Political and Civic Engagement in the oPt across three Historical Eras

In the recent era in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the framing and forms of youth political and civic engagement changed. This change is a result of shifts in the political opportunity/threat structure that impacted the power of various actors, positions, framing, and strategies. The Palestinian youth were perceived to be active participants in the Palestinian society especially during the First Intifada, yet they are perceived now to be in need of empowerment and unengaged. The paper aims at analyzing the impact of Youth NGOs strategy of professionalization and approach to prepare new leaders on the political and civic engagement culture of youth. Understanding the rift in the culture of youth political and civic engagement can help us understand better youth inclusion and exclusion In the Palestinian society. This paper is of importance as it will look at a sequence of three historical eras in which changes took place within the youth engagement culture. The paper looks into the changes taking place in the period between 1987 and 2011. The three historical periods under study are the First Intifada (1987-1992), the Post Oslo Period (1993-2000), and the Second Intifada and Division Era (2000-2011).

Within this paper I consider three types of organizations that worked with youth in the oPt: a youth development organization which was established by political parties; second, a youth development organization established in the Post Oslo Period and focuses on journalism; and third, a youth led organization that was established by the UNDP. The three organizations founders present three different age cohorts of youth leaders. Analyzing the experiences of the leaders, whether founders or later leaders, combined with examining the changes within each organization and its strategies to cope and resist the field challenges, provides us with an understanding of the changes in the culture of culture of engagement over the three periods under study.

Professionalization as a strategy was used by youth organizations in three ways: as a way to present a unique identity and be separated from any political affiliation, as a way to present an approach in which is based on knowledge and skills and as a result was less grassroots led, and finally a tool to access financial resources. Further, the impact of professionalization on the youth adult partnership was massive when combined with increase pressures and demands of donors and the expansion of the organizations. As for preparing young leaders, there was a change in how organizations worked with young people over time and how founders and later leaders were trained and as a result their culture of political and civic engagement. The first shift was moving from a multiple affiliations in interlinked organizational structures to a one affiliation which is an NGO. Further, moving from being trained through doing and mentorship, to training and workshops; and finally the shift from being part of a community building and steadfastness process in which the older age cohorts passed to youth development approach that depends on capabilities individual approach.

This paper is based on data collected as part of a dissertation research in the years between the years 2010 and 2012. The data utilized institutional ethnography and comparative case studies approach as methods for data collection and analysis. The research used interviews, participant observation, and content analysis as tools for data collection.

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