The Regional Human Rights Monitoring workshop which was held in Cairo from May 29-31 2008 concluded the “Youth for Human Rights” program, which is the first distance learning program in Arabic aiming at training young Arab human rights defenders on advocacy and monitoring. The “Youth for Human Rights Program” has been jointly organized by the Human Rights Education Associates (HREA), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and the Arab Institute for Human Rights (AIHR).
The workshop, which took place between May 29th and May 31st 2008, was named after the martyr Aly Sabeeh who was one of the Iraqi participants that participated in the training program from its start in December 2006 until his death in Iraq in October 2007. During the celebration organized on the first day for the memory of Ali Sobeih, the participants and organizers – which had met with Ali for the last time in Tunis in April 2007 (during the first training workshop for the program) – exchanged memories and shared recollections on how he was always optimistic and energetic. For the purpose of keeping his memory alive, the participants decided to record a documentary movie on his life, their meeting with him, and his martyrdom. This video was to keep Aly in their memories and to reach those that were not fortunate enough to meet him.
During the opening session of the workshop, CIHRS Executive Director Moataz El fegiery stressed the importance of organizing this regional workshop on monitoring as the world is preparing this year for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while a significant number of Arab countries continue to suffer from serious human rights violations. Therefore, and as human rights defenders in Arab countries still have many challenges to face, it has now become crucial to empower young defenders with the tools of advocacy and monitoring to combat the violations that occur in their States and to adequately deal with the difficulties they face. Naceur El Kefi, the Director of the Information and Documentation Center at the Arab Institute for Human Rights Studies, focused in these terms on the importance of the role played by youth in the Arab world in the current situation and that the concept of the program which centers on education and youth empowerment, is based on the hope of the effective role of youth.
The main purpose of the monitoring workshop was not to give the participants additional information on monitoring or advocacy as the youth participants of the program have spent a year and a half thoroughly studying these two subjects. Therefore the workshop focused on training the participants to acquire the skills, experiences, and designing the strategies that are critical to advocacy and monitoring. During the workshop, the participants presented their projects which they had submitted before their arrival to Cairo. These projects focused on creating plans of action for monitoring or advocating certain situations relating to gross human rights violations in their countries and societies. For example some of the participants focused on the idea of establishing an observatory for human rights which would cover the Middle East and North Africa region. Others wanted to work on the creation of an internet website for the monitoring of human rights violations in the Arab region. Still others proposed a project aiming at the improvement of conditions for Palestinian and Arab detainees in Israel, and guaranteeing fair trials that abide by international standards. The projects were then evaluated by the trainers who were present in the program since its beginning in 2006. General debates and discussions were organized between trainers and participants to analyze what tools are necessary to carry out the projects, and how to improve and implement these projects.
The issue of how to follow up together after the end of the program was one of the most engaging subjects for the participants who feared that after a year and a half of study and work together as a group, their relationship would end with the end of the program despite their unified goals in the work for the respect for human rights. Therefore, participants expressed great excitement when the program organizers announced the availability of funds for a group project, if the participants agreed to take the responsibility for the planning, implementing, monitoring, and success of the project. Nine participants were selected as steering committee members by the organizers and trainers to be responsible for this future project. These nine youth were chosen based on the degree of their participation in the training program during the past year and a half and their completion of training assignments, research, and work planning during the program. The Steering Committee will be responsible for coordinating with the rest of the group, designing and implementing the follow up project.
Immediately after the end of the workshop, the nine selected youth met with the organizers and trainers to discuss the project which they will implement. It was suggested to create a human rights observatory or a network of young human rights defenders. After a long discussion it was decided that the steering committee would submit a final group project in September 2008, after which the implementation phase of the project will begin.
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