Enhancing Cooperation and Empowering Local Communities: Visions from the 5th French-Palestinian Conference on Decentralized Cooperation

23 May 2023
Enhancing Cooperation and Empowering Local Communities: Visions from the 5th French-Palestinian Conference on Decentralized Cooperation

Over 300 elected representatives of French and Palestinian local authorities gathered along with elite and senior French and Palestinian figures to participate in the 5th French-Palestinian Conference on Decentralized Cooperation in the city of Ramallah. The conference is organized by APLA and the Association of French Cities, and the Decentralized Cooperation Network for Palestine, funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Consulate General in Jerusalem under the auspices of His Excellency, President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas.

This event is a diplomatic uprising through which, the French and Palestinian local authorities managed to emphasize the strength of relations and connections that brings them together around the shared needs and goals, especially those aiming to enhance solidarity with the Palestinian people and maintaining hope in consolidating the foundations of the Palestinian State through establishing joint projects aiming to respond to the arising needs of the Palestinian communities.

Over the course of three days, Palestinian local authorities and their French counterparts presented experiences of cooperation and partnership, and the success stories achieved through such partnerships during sessions dedicated to presenting experiences and receiving inquiries around them. Meanwhile, local opportunities used the opportunity available through the conference corridors to meet their Palestinian and French counterparts, their experiences, challenges and priorities, in order to establish true partnerships. APLA dedicated vast spaces to highlight the humanitarian status in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Palestinian reality and the needs under occupation, in addition to visits dedicated to learn about the French-Palestinian decentralized cooperation through projects under implementation and others already implemented.

APLA was keen on launching the activities of the conference from the city of Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine; in order to affirm the right of Palestinian people to liberty and independence, while conveying the hard reality and the complicated context within which the Palestinian municipalities work and lived by the Palestinian citizens. The program included taking the French delegation on a visit to Jerusalem, a tour introducing the history of the city and the status quo, in addition to visits and meetings with centers and organizations working with their French partners in projects that globally seek to support the Jerusalemite citizens' resilience and steadfastness, the Palestinian youth and the culture, such as Al-Bustan Center in Silwan, Yabous Cultural Center, Edward Said Music Consortium and Al-Hakawati Theater.

APLA's Executive Director, Eng. Abdallah Anati noted on the side of launching the French-Palestinian Conference on Decentralized Cooperation: "We convene this conference to reconfirm our commitment continuously to consolidating and expanding the circle of partnerships between Palestine and France, and we aspire to the pivotal role that local authorities potentially can have all around the world to convey our Palestinian message to all people of the world". The Director of the Association of French Cities, Virginie Rouquette, participated in the opening session introducing the Association's vision on the decentralized cooperation with Palestine, in addition to the Counselor for Cultural Affairs at the French Consulate, Robert Guillaume, who spoke about the support of the French Consulate of decentralized cooperation projects.

Concerning the French projects in Palestine, the Regional and Projects Officer of AFD, Julie Johns, presented the main fields of work in the Palestinian territory and the areas of support available in the coming years. In return, the Advisor of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Estephan Salameh, praised the support provided by the French government on one hand and the efforts of the French municipalities to support and aid their Palestinian partners on the other hand, valuing the role played by APLA in strengthening such partnerships through its activities and programs, which the Decentralized Cooperation Conference is considered one its main ones.

Official Opening of the Conference:

His Excellency, Minister of Local Governance, Eng. Majdi Al-Saleh conveyed the greetings of the Palestinian Leadership, headed by His Excellency, President Mahmoud Abbas to the participants saying "this conference constitutes a pillar for developing the network of international solidarity with the rights of the Palestinian people, enhances the long term twinning relationships between the Palestinian and French municipalities, which establish a role model for relations among people and a physical embodiment of the French solidarity with our people". Furthermore, Al-Saleh clarified that the government and all of its institutions support the decentralized cooperation projects out of its belief in the roles played by local authorities.

President of APLA, Abdelkarim Al-Zubeidi expressed his pride in APLA for organizing the conference and convening it in the Palestinian territory, which expresses the depth of the relationship between the Palestinian and French peoples, clarifying that holding such activities contributes to conveying the reality of Palestinian local authorities work, and the efforts they exert to keep up with the global issues despite the impossible economic, security and political circumstances.

In return, Mayor of Ramallah, Issa Qassis, welcomed the audience, expressing his pleasure in hosting this important conference, especially that Ramallah has twinning and cooperation relations with several French cities, in addition to the fact that this gathering is considered one of the important means of communication with the friends of the Palestinian people and the French local authorities that stand in support of our people, especially in their issues related to basic services and the challenges Palestinian municipalities face due to the policies of the occupation in shrinking their spaces.

Meanwhile, the head of the Decentralized Cooperation Network to Palestine, and the Spokesperson of French local authorities, Vannie Sal, praised the existing relations with the Palestinian local authorities saying that this event represents a strong dynamic of the cooperation of the French local authorities engaged in over 60 cooperation partnerships in Palestine and the Mediterranean Region.

Technical Sessions:

First Session:

The youth… engaging in work, the society, culture and movement

Chairperson: Fabianne Deletang, Deputy President of RCDP

Moderator: Jamilah Awwad – Public and Internaitonal Relations Officer – Al-Bireh Municipality

Rapporteur: Ahmad William – Public Relations Officer – Salfit Municipality

Presentations and Speakers:

  • The general context and theoretical data on the status of the youth in Palestine: Yasmine Qe'dan – PhD in Social Sciences – Birzeit University, Inas Abdelraziq: Palestinian Institute for City Diplomacy.
  • Joint presentation on the project of diagnosing the status of the youth between the Municipality of Abu Dies and the Municipality of Rose': Mayor of Abu Deis – Abdelsaslam Ayyad, and the Director of International Relations – Laurance Gorphelle
  • Movement and studying abroad: Preisdent of Al-Rafiq Institution – Suhail Abu Shusheh
  • Youth exchange in decentralized cooperation – Mayor of Nanteir: Patrick Jaree

Recommendations and decisions:

  • Encourage and promote exchange between French and Palestinian youth, while paying special attention to cultural exchange.
  • Expanding the "Youth Ambassadors" program of the Decentralized Cooperation Network for Palestine "RCDP" to include youth from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • Extending phase three of the exchange program to Autumn 2024, where 25 Palestinian youth from East Jerusalem will be hosted by the partner French local authorities, to include a national meeting between the youth and local authorities under the decentralized cooperation projects in Palestine.
  • Enhance access to education, technical training and academic exchange between French and Palestinian universities.

Second Session:

Heritage and Culture (Memory, History, Tourism…)

Chairperson: Patrick Geroudet, Member of Chart Municipality (International Relations Committee)

Moderator: Marlyise Ortiz – Director of the Association of Main Cities and Landmarks in France

Rapporteur: Murad Al-Tamimi, Director of Tourism and Archaeology in Hebron Municipality

Presentation and Speakers:

  • Joint presentation from Nablus and Lille municipalities on the rehabilitation project of the old electricity plant: Mayor of Nablus – Dr. Sami Al-Hijjawi, Deputy Mayor of Lille, Marie-Pierre Person.
  • Joint presentation from Ramallah and Bordeaux municipalities on establishing the department of learning about Ramallah's heritage: Deputy Mayor of Ramallah – Salah Haniyeh, Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux – Celine Papan
  • Joint presentation from Bethlehem and Grenoble municipalities on the heritage legacy is one of the factors of social cohesion and development of tourism in Bethlehem: Deputy Mayor of Grenoble – Emanuel Croz, Director of Public Relations at Bethlehem Municipality – Karmen Ghattas

Recommendations and Decisions:

  • Enhance cooperation and organize training activities as well as the support of representatives of Palestinian local authorities working on heritage issues.
  • Identifying the following areas of intervention as priority: executing the plans of local authorities for maintaining heritage, undergoing procedures of registering heritage, and supporting the engineering of urban planning.
  • Taking measures and implementing initiatives for supporting heritage such as establishing the program of heritage ambassadors and a network of Palestinian cities of heritage in the frame of a partnership between APLA and the Association of French Cities (Sites and Cite'sremarquaables De France)

Third Session:

Environment, Water and Sanitation (Enhancing the management of water, sanitation and water resources through decentralized cooperation)

Chairperson: Andre' Viola – Member of Aude Region

Moderator: Me'lodie Biossel – Mediterranean Focal Point and Knowledge Producer for pS-Eau

Rapporteur: Issa Dababat – CEO Water Service Council in Tubas Governorate.



Presentations and Speakers:

  •  Water and sanitation management and governance at the level of Palestinian local authorities: Eng. Mo'men Afaneh – Head of the Technical and Legal Support Unit – APLA.
  • Decentralized Cooperation:
  • Michel Demolder – Eau De Bassin Rennais
  • Clairre Hart – Deputy President of Montpellier Me'diterrane'e Metropole
  • Nicolas Combauro – Head of International Relations and Aude
  • Dr. Riyad Awad – Mayor of Tulkarem

Recommendations and Decisions:

  • Supporting the Palestinian local authorities in enhancing citizens' access to drinking water.
  • Exchanging experiences and expertise in order to enhance and expand the sanitation infrastructure: sanitation distribution networks, water treatment plants.
  • Decentralized cooperation shall focus on achieving the global goals on water management, especially with regards of the performance of distribution networks, the reuse of treated wastewater and public awareness.
  • Develop exchange opportunities between French and Palestinian local authorities in order to benefit from the success of existing projects and adapt their interventions to the ever changing needs of Palestinian local authorities.

Fourth Session

Decentralized Cooperation (concept and needs of the Palestinian local authorities)

Chairperson: Mayor of Tubas, Head of International Relations Committee – APLA, Husam Daraghmeh

Moderator: Gender Coordinator – APLA, Abeer Hussein

Presentations and Speakers:

  • Needs and challenges of the Palestinian local authorities in decentralized cooperation: President of the Village Council of Beit Dajan – Azem Haj Mohammad
  • Decentralized cooperation "Best Practices – Municipality of Jericho": International Relations Officer – Municipality of Jericho, Wi'am I'riqat.
  • General context and theoretical data on women and gender equality: Luna I'riqat, Palestinian Lawyer.
  • A proposal for an international network of active players in order to encourage best practices with the aim of enhancing the support of women victims of violence, Myriam Bigeard member from Loire-Atlantique
  • Project for establishing a local observatory for combating violence against women: member of Seine-Saint-Denis – Domonique Deilak, and representative of Jenin Municipality, Maysoun Dawood.

Recommendations and Decisions:

  • To enhance decentralized cooperation on issues related to combating gender based violence in Palestine
  • Call to establish further partnerships in order to support and enhance the role of Palestinian local authorities
  • Encourage exchange between the French and Palestinian communities and institutions as it supports the development of permanent and unifying human connections and enriches bilateral relations.