Introduction to “SHAMS” Vision, Goals, and Strategic Priorities
“SHAMS” Center believes that dissemination and generalization of human rights should be tackled from a holistic approach that takes into consideration the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and their mutual interdependence on each other.
Shams aims mainly at providing capacity building to organizations and individuals (especially women and youth) in the fields of human rights and democratic participation.
We try and achieve this through two main approaches. The first is direct engagement with local communities through our vast network of human rights activist on-the-ground in villages throughout the West Bank. In this capacity, we provide workshops, training courses, and other such activities to enable people to take up and demand their own rights. Our other approach is to utilize the media to spread information to a wider audience (through a bi-weekly TV-program and regular radio and TV appearances).
Goals and Objectives:
- Dissemination of information about human rights, democracy, and good governance issues through the utilization of the media
- Promotion of the concepts of human rights in Palestinian legislation.
- Strengthening the role of women within their communities
- Strengthening the role of youth and more generally promoting volunteerism in Palestine.
- Capacity building and strengthening the relationship and cooperation between local, regional and international institutions.
- Compilation and publication of research and studies.
- Promoting change within society, especially countering stereotypes and biases towards women, increasing values of tolerance, and awareness of democratic principles and participation.
- Empower target groups to be able to demand and defend their needs and rights.
The Shams Human Rights and Democracy Media Center seeks to enhance the role of youth within Palestinian society, in addition to consolidating a culture of human rights, values of tolerance, democratic reform and the rule of law. From this perspective, Shams Center is working hard on establishing programs and conducts activities targeting children, youth, and women, in order to empower and build their capacities, and work on satisfying their basic needs and priorities.
“SHAMS” Vision is represented in a civil democratic society, based upon justice, equality, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and positive discrimination for the sake of marginalized and poor segments of the society, in addition to respect for the rights of minorities.
Philosophy of “Shams” Center:
The Human Rights and Democracy Media Center “SHAMS” Philosophy is based on the following:
- Coordination, networking, cooperation and joint action with civil institutions.
- Support and defend human rights, whether individual or collective rights on the basis of international conventions and covenants.
- Increase awareness of and participation in democratic and electoral processes.
- Build the capacities of individuals and organizations to protect and defend their rights
- Breaking the silence and cycle of fear.
- Encourage community participation in taking an action towards promoting and protecting human rights and basic freedoms.
Shams’ Work is Based Around the Following Strategic Categories
- Shams supports human rights though a variety of means and mechanisms, from legal support to capacity building operations aimed at both individuals and organizations.
- Capacity building through various means is a major mechanism of our human rights work. A short list would include the Training of Trainers in human rights issues, provision of legal aid and support to human rights (and other civil society) organizations which have illegally been shut down by the Palestinian Authority, and the strengthening and deepening of democratic processes and institutions in the West Bank (as we view democratic participation as a basic human right).
- Our human rights work takes no sides and we strive against abuses perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as much as we do against violations committed by Israel.
- One of our projects worked with the Ministry of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) to introduce female preachers to the concept of human rights, which is often put in stark contrast to Qur’anic teachings or dismissed as a tool of Western imperialism. The training course also discussed more specific topics such as honor killings or the acceptance of violence towards women by men/husbands, which is often believed acceptable on a religious basis. After a heated discussion of various hadith, the female preachers expressed a desire for further courses to bring depth to their newfound knowledge of their religion and asserted that they would spread these concepts in their lectures (though this desire was not ubiquitous among the participants).
- Since 2009 we have provided legal aid and support to organizations that have been illegally shut down or have had their boards replaced by the Palestinian Authority under the guise of the Palestinian Associations’ Law Number 1 of 2000. Apart from legal aid and support, we also regularly raise awareness of this issue in the society at large, and spare no effort in continuing to support these organizations.
- We have one project which focuses on human rights in the Palestinian security sector (see Rule of Law and Good Governance, Point 2 below).
- We emphasize the citizens’ role by raising awareness on the importance of their participation in the democratic process as a whole, trying to spread an electoral culture
- Provide enough information so that citizens are able to fully and smoothly practice their rights, including voting away from tribal influences or family pressure
- Elections Monitoring
- Focus on youth and women
- Support the Central Elections Committee in electoral registration
- Spread flyers, brochures, TV reports, radio interviews, workshops
- One project educated 9,524 individuals from the society at large and from 90 grassroots organizations on the importance of democratic participation and religious tolerance and dialogue. It was split into two parts, one focusing on Arab-European relations and dialogue and on human rights, and one part focusing on the upcoming local elections and the importance of democratic participation. It included a total of 280 workshops, 5 training courses, six summer camps, produced 70 TV reports, and its geographical spread was nearly ubiquitous in the West Bank
- Another project trained 20 trainers with management skills and capabilities to disseminate this form of culture (of electoral participation) as well as with the skills needed for elections monitoring, and held 15 awareness workshops aimed mostly at youth
- We held training courses for recently elected youth members in local councils to provide them with the essential skills and adequate expertise to help them perform their roles as newly elected members (one project held two courses in which a total of 40 participants of both sexes attended)
Rule of Law and Good Governance:
- Shams also works to provide rule of law and establishing good governance inside the West Bank.
- Shams has an ongoing project with the Palestinian Security Forces and Civic Society Organization which aims at reinforcing the concepts of human rights and good governance within the security sector.
- As our two main target groups are women and youth, women are an integral part of our work, especially in the human rights work
- (see Human Rights, Point 2 above: Introducing human rights to female preachers)
- During the Project for Communication and Dialogue, which has been our greatest project in terms of extent, we participated with various women’s groups who had until that point never previously participated in any event with men (such as the Hebron Women’s Association, established in 1956). In several villages, it was also apparent that it was the first time women and men participated together in any public gathering, workshop, or training course.
Humanitarian and Cultural Work:
- Though humanitarian and cultural work are not our primary foci, we do some work in these field when the opportunity presents itself.
- In 2007, we participated in two projects which provided food baskets, school supplies, clothes and medical kits to female breadwinners and young pupils in impoverished areas, as well as another project which provided sexual and reproductive health education. In 2008, we provided winter supplies for these communities to cope with the winter season, and have since then also supported kindergartens in two Bedouin communities.
- In 2007 and in a project between 2009 and 2011, we have supported local cultural work by providing a platform for various communities to stage plays/theater performances.
- Another aspect of Shams’ work also relates to bridging the gap between East and West, and in reducing stereotyping on each side of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. This has included a number of missions with the Danish Representative Office aiming to introduce Palestine to Danish visitors and in a number of workshops and training courses, educate Palestinian communities about Danish human rights legislation, values of tolerance, and initiate a level of communication between the two societies. One such project included over 760 workshops held throughout the West Bank on issues pertaining to values of tolerance and human rights, and international covenants on these issues. Another project held well over 100 such workshops, and we regularly broadcast TV episodes and radio programs on these issues.
Media and Research Work:
- Shams has various media units and projects
- Television: Shams releases a biweekly television program called “Cases and Opinions” which is broadcasted on local TV channels, the Ma’an Network, and Mix satellite channel. It mostly presents legal, youth, and rights issues, where academics and experts discuss the relevant topics.
Shams has also produced and distributed various rights issue-based television reports outside the above-mentioned TV program
- Radio: The center regularly releases radio interviews with academics, on-the-ground professionals and activists pertaining to projects we are currently working on and the issues surrounding those projects
- Written Press: Shams publishes a quarterly newspaper supplement named “Democratic Readings” which tackles issues relating to human rights, good governance, women’s rights, youth, etc.
The Center also regularly publishes press releases on local human rights breaches throughout the Palestinian territories and statements concerning world events.
In addition to our own publications, our projects are generally covered by several local newspapers, including Al-Hayya, Al-Quds and Al-Ayyam
- Other Publications: In cooperation with our network of academics, the Center publishes a number of reports, studies, publications, and larger works of research. The scope of these papers is broad, and past papers have discussed, amongst others, the following topics: Capacity Building (Guide for Training of Trainers, Manual for Capacity Building of Civil Society Organizations), Women’s Rights in Islamic Law, Legal Status of Israeli Settlements and Occupation of East Jerusalem, Democracy (Separation of Powers, Rule of Law, Youth Role in Electoral Participation, Women’s Role in Electoral Processes), Youth Community Development, Surveys of the NGO and Voluntary Sector in Palestine, etc.
- human rights program which contains capacity building “training” besides raising awareness, education, lobbying & advocacy, legal aid and assistance, researches and studies.
- human rights’ media program which includes (opinion & issues program): TV and radio dialogue episodes, written and TV human rights’ report, radio drama, a (newspaper) supplement, the monthly electronic newsletter and press releases.
- human rights program for Palestinian security sector and Sharia faculties’ students which contains the forum of enhancing human rights within the Palestinian security sector as well as including the concepts of human rights’ concepts for Sharia faculties’ students in the Palestinian universities.
- Combating death penalty program: This aims at abolishing death penalty from the legislations applied in Palestine, and enacting Palestinian legislations which respect and protect the right to life and combat death penalty. And encouraging the president not to approve death sentences inflicted by Palestinian tribunals to correspond to the increasing international approach to stop executing this penalty. Additionally, providing guarantees of the fair trial and not prosecuting Palestinian civilians before military tribunals. And calling the president for using the constitutional authorities in granting a special pardon, and fulfilling Palestinian commitments to international agreements and conventions that Palestine accessed to. As well as signing the Second Optional Protocol of the International Convenient on Political and Civil Rights of 1989 which for the purpose of abolishing death penalty.
Membership of the Center:
- The Consultative status of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
- Permanent Arabic Committee for Human rights/ Arab League as an observer.
- International Coalition Against Death Penalty – international.
- Arabic Federation for Human Rights – Arabic.
- Social Accountability network in the Arab World – Arabic.
- Crisis Action – international.
- Elections Network in the Arab World – Arabic.
- Anna Lind Foundation – international.
- International Coalition War Criminals – international.
- Coalition for Defense of Freedom of Expression and Opinion – Palestinian.
- Arabic Coalition for Darfur – Arabic.
- Civil Committee for Monitoring Elections – Palestinians.
- International Organization for Tolerance.
- Defense International – international.
- Palestinian Coalition against Death Penalty – Palestinian.
- Organization for Peace and Liberty – international.
- Palestinian Youth Network – Palestinian.
- National Authority for Voluntary Work – Palestinian.
- National Coalition for The Global Call to Action Against Poverty – Palestinian.
- Euromed Youth – international.