The Arab Thought Forum (ATF) is committed to the belief that state structures must be developed to serve and be responsive to an active and critical public, which is conscious of its obligations and duties, as well as its rights and entitlements

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Local Elections Project

Because of the important role played by Palestinian local councils and the impact of their decisions on the everyday lives of citizens, in 2004, ATF focused its attention on activating these councils and provided an open forum for citizens to discuss with local officials issues of importance and concern to them. The objective is to improve the councils‘ functioning, performance, and responsiveness to citizens‘ needs. In response to repeated calls for free and democratic local government elections, ATF expanded its focus to include election-related issues; however, since only 36 Palestinian local councils will take part in the elections, and these elections will be held at different times, ATF‘s work in this area is not yet complete. From December 15th to 21st, 2004, ATF organized sixteen town hall meetings in seven localities where elections would be held. The meetings were at the following locations:

  • Bethany, Abu Deis, Beit Anan/Jerusalem District - seven meetings
  • Jericho, Awja, Diyok, Nuwi ma/Jericho District - six meetings
  • Tobas/Tobas District - three meetings

The objective of these meetings was to open the floor for discussion between citizens and candidates in order to give each candidate an equal opportunity to meet the local electorate and discuss the issues. In this way, all candidates, without discrimination or impartiality, were offered a chance to present their programs and plans for the local council should they win in the elections. Additionally, citizens were afforded the opportunity to voice their opinions and discuss their views of potential programs. Such open discussions have the added benefit of providing a basis for holding elected officials accountable in the future to do what they have promised. Of the 236 candidates invited, 146 opted to participate.

The number of citizens who attended the meetings was 2,213, including 446 women. The women in attendance were effective in their participationand were recognized for articulate presentation of their views and comments. The significant participation of youth was also noticeable, as their numbers accounted for 65% of those in attendance. It is worth noting that 27 male and female university students who had previously participated in ATF‘s Youth Leadership Program assisted in organizing the meetings by helping to distribute invitations, organize and facilitate meetings, and prepare reports.

Finally, the majority of the meetings took place in a democratic atmosphere, which indicates a democratic transformation in the Palestinian people and society.

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