A senior United Nations official has voiced concern over the decision by the local authorities in Gaza to close the offices of a non-governmental organization (NGO) working with youth and called for the unconditional lifting of the ban.
The Sharek Youth Forum, which was forcibly closed on 30 November, is “a key implementing partner” for the UN on the ground, particularly in the context of the Gaza Summer Games, said Wilfried Lemke, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport and Development.
“This year, the NGO was instrumental in providing recreational and learning beach activities to more than 60,000 children and youth, as well as vocational training for some 2,000 volunteer instructors,” he said in a statement issued on Friday.
The Gaza Summer Games, an event that has been organised every year since 2007 by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), provides a variety of sporting, recreational and educational activities to some 250,000 children and youth in the Gaza Strip.
“The UN needs the dedicated and professional assistance of their partners, including the Sharek Youth Forum, if they are to succeed in their efforts to support the people living in Gaza. Not to mention that those partners are a crucial source of professional opportunities, thus partly addressing the alarming economic situation in the Strip,” Mr. Lemke said.
Mr. Lemke’s statement echoes the concerns expressed last week by Max Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, who also stressed the important role played by Sharek Youth Forum in partnership with the UN in promoting youth empowerment in the Palestinian territories.
Since its creation in 1996, the Forum has played an important role in Gaza in enabling children and young adolescents to actively engage in sports, arts and other cultural activities. The organization had established itself as a highly respected organization offering young people recreational activities amid the harsh living conditions in Gaza.