Civic Education in Palestine (2005-2006)
In 2005, PASSIA embarked on this new project feeling that it was imperative at that critical stage in Palestinian history that people who are and will be shaping the future are equipped with relevant knowledge and experience. The idea stemmed from the fact that the leaders of tomorrow lay today the basis of civic life in the anticipated state and promote the practice of a rule-of-law regime; yet, there was a huge lack of the basics of civics among Palestinians, including appropriate understandings of constitutional principles (rule of law, separation of powers, individual freedoms and rights), concepts and purposes of citizenship and governments, and political and legal processes created to make decisions, seek consensus, and resolve conflicts in a free society, and so on.
For a democracy to survive and flourish, its citizens must know about the basic features of a democratic political system to be able to access it when their interests are at stake, and they must believe in the importance of certain key democratic values, such as tolerance for divergent viewpoints and support for the rule of law. They must also be willing and able to participate in local and national politics, and they must believe that their participation is important to the continued viability of the democratic political system.
In countries emerging from authoritarian rule, citizens often lack democratic experience, especially with regard to knowledge about formal democratic structures and processes and thus about the opportunities that exist for advancing their interests. Citizens in transitioning countries often experience difficulties adjusting to the competition, compromise, and loss that are inherent parts of the democratic political process. Without values such as political tolerance, trust in democratic institutions, and respect for the rule of law prevailing, this can be severely destabilizing, particularly if it ignites or exacerbates economic, ethnic, religious, and other forms of tensions.
With this in mind, and to counter the lack of democratic socialization, PASSIA launched the project, providing training courses in civics and governance for young professionals, to impart a level of understanding and acceptance of civil rights and responsibilities that is required for the maintenance and improvement of any constitutional democracy.
The proceedings of those workshops and training sessions were published in a book.