The top United Nations humanitarian official in the occupied Palestinian territory expressed concern today over the closure by local authorities of the Gaza-based offices of a non-government organization (NGO) working with young people.
“I am very concerned about the forced closing of Sharek Youth Forum in Gaza,” the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said. “Sharek Youth Forum is an important NGO partner of the United Nations in its work on behalf of children and youth in Gaza.”
Describing itself on its website as “one of the leading independent, apolitical and impartial youth organizations in Palestine,” Sharek Youth Forum works to promote youth empowerment in the Palestinian territories.
It was established in 1996, at which time it was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation and the UN Development Programme/ Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People. Sharek gained its autonomy in July 2004, following registration with the Palestinian Ministry of Interior as an NGO with charitable status.
According to media reports, Sharek Youth Forum’s offices in Gaza City and elsewhere in Gaza were forcibly closed at the end of November and police broke up a student demonstration in its support over the weekend.
Mr. Gaylard, who is also the Deputy UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, noted that “Sharek’s work forms part of the many important activities carried out by civil society organizations in the occupied Palestinian territory promoting development and the protection of human rights.”
He said that freedom of association and freedom of expression are fundamental rights protected by international law as well as the Palestinian Basic Law and expressed his hope that Sharek would be permitted to continue its work in Gaza without further delay or undue hindrance.