Local Authorities Forum - Free Palestine—in Brazil
“This special meeting is a precursor. It paves the way to a new understanding between the Holy Land Palestine and Brazil,” said Palestinian Ambassador to Brazil Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil al-Zebem. “Because this land is holy too, in a sense, by virtue of wise policy choices overcoming structural problems. You are natural partners in solidarity.”
This message opened the Local Authorities Forum Free Palestine, held in the Canoas Prefecture, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, on 28 November 2012. The event took place in the context of the World Social Forum – Free Palestine, hosted in the nearby city of Porto Alegre, 28 December to 2 December 2012.
Canoas Mayor Jairo Jorge chaired the gathering, which involved presentations on the problems of infrastructure and restrictions on access to housing, employment, communication and mobility of the Palestinian people since the beginning of the Israeli occupation, and compounded with the recent bombings in Gaza and building a wall that divides the City of Jerusalem. Nonetheless, “This is a time of excitement, joy and hope,” Mayor Jorge concluded. “Your cause is our cause, because the Palestinian cause is present in all of us, free men and women.”
Through videos, photos and other exhibits of their respective cities, Palestinian officials related to their Brazilian counterparts the difficulties experienced under various forms of Israeli occupation in their cities across occupied Palestine. The pointed to more than 9,000 Palestinian homes that have been destroyed by an occupation policy that also has isolated and restricted mobility and the identity of the Palestinians, in violation of international law.
The forum featured presentations by representatives of municipalities: Yaser Atieh Amouri (of Jerusalem), of Ribhi Dola (Beitunia); Salah al-Din Abdel Najib Zeer Huseini (Hebron/al-Khalil) and a City Council member from Ramallah, Faisal Hasan Darras. Other Palestinian Arab leaders attended from the municipalities of Ramallah in Nablus, Hebron and Beitunia. Also at the table were the Mayor of São Leopoldo and President of Federation of Municipal Association of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (FAMURS) Ary Vanazzi.
Also participating in the forum were members of local and international civil society concerned with municipal affairs under the occupation. Jamal Jumaa of the Stop the Wall Campaign addressed the local authorities on the effects of the Annexation Wall that Israel has built across the West Bank. Joseph Schechla, coordinator of Habitat International Coalition’s Housing and Land Rights Network spoke to local authorities on the Latin American contributions to international law prohibiting occupation and colonization, and the corresponding human rights obligations that extend to local authorities.
The local authorities present in the Free Palestine forum at Canoas adopted a common statement of shared principles, commitments to future cooperation and exchange of experience. That declaration also recognized the state-bound duty, as public entities, to commit to responsible investment by avoiding contracting with parties that support or benefit from occupation or violate related prohibitions under international. (See the declaration.)
Canoas will be the site of another major gathering in 2013, when the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) convenes the 3rd Forum for Suburban Local Authorities (FALP) there under the theme Rights and Democracy for Inclusive and Sustainable Metropolises. Local authorities will meet there on 11–13 June 2013 to consider implementing the equal right to the city as an inclusive metropolis. The FALP will be organized around five areas of work: (1) identity and multiculturalism; (2) governance and participation; (3) globalization and cities; (4) sustainability; (5) common goods and good living.
For further information: www.canoas.rs.gov.br.