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UN-Habitat, University Officials Meet on Cooperation

January 21, 2016
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Public Relations Office - Birzeit University

The head of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) in Palestine, Joe Hooper, met with President Abdul Latif Abu Hijleh to explore areas where the two institutions might cooperate.

The two parties discussed approaches for engaging Palestinian students and professors in policymaking, planning and implementation of the urbanization of remote areas in Palestine.

The meeting was attended by Vice President for Planning and Development Mirvat Bulbul,  Architectural Engineering Department Chair Yazid El Rifai, and faculty member in the Department of Architecture Engineering, Lubna Shaheen.

“Community outreach continues to be at the core of our activities. Thus, we cannot neglect the hardship that Palestinians in Area C, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip experience as a result of Israeli measures and their impact on the planning rights of people in those areas. Our society is in need of intellectual capital, well-educated people that are not only equipped with knowledge and skills but also with competencies that enable them to analyze situations and problems to be part of the efforts seeking to improve Palestinians’ lives in remote areas,” Abu Hijleh said.

He said that universities and their community outreach programs cannot limit themselves to single disciplines, but must link various disciplines and engage in international cooperation. “We are delighted,” he said, “to discuss potential collaboration with UN-Habitat, which has shown great commitment towards urbanization and enhancing people’s living conditions, which will eventually serve the state-building process.”

Bulbul said that the challenges Palestinians are facing have increased pressure on already-deteriorated infrastructures, encroached on agricultural land and the urban environment, and as a result created an unbalanced urbanization. “It is hard for intellectuals and well-educated students to move between Palestinian cities easily,” she noted, “and therefore, the flows of information, ideas and practices are nearly blocked. We need to find ways to increase awareness between rural areas and work jointly with them to improve their lives, health and housing.”

In turn, Hooper briefed Abu Hijleh on the UN-Habitat program for housing and planning in remote areas in Palestine. He described UN-Habitat’s aims of providing a guide to planning efforts in Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza, areas that suffer from “unbalanced urbanization.”  Hooper emphasized the importance of engaging students and faculty in policy work that focuses the attention of governmental entities and civil society on urbanization under occupation.

“We need long-term strategies based on research and planning to study the needs of the above-mentioned areas to promote sustainable development and improve the quality of Palestinians’ lives,” Hooper added. He highlighted the current partnership between UN-Habitat and NGOs and governmental entities as very important for developing policy strategies and capital investment projects. Hooper went on to say that now is the time to extend this cooperation to academic institutions, especially Birzeit University, which offers a unique quality of education, professional staff and stand-out students.

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