UNESCO’s Celebration for The International Youth Day 2021

UNESCO Ramallah Office organized an event in Battir, a Palestinian village south-west of Jerusalem which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to celebrate the 2021 International Youth Day (IYD). The event was held on 27th of July under this year‘s theme “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” aiming at engaging the youth in protecting traditional agriculture and promoting a sustainable food culture in Palestine.

The event was developed within the framework of promoting Palestinian Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) to raise awareness on the close relationship between food and agriculture, as well as the Palestinian intangible cultural heritage and the role that youth can play in transmitting this important part of their national identity. Palestinian food and agriculture are based on principles of nutrition, connection with the land, and quality that can are reproduced and passed on from generation to generation. With this spirit in mind, the UNESCO Ramallah Office has endorsed this event so as to empower youth to advocate and be guardians of their own cultural heritage.

Thirty young volunteers, sixteen females and fourteen males between the age of 17 and 29, from the West Bank and East Jerusalem participated in the event by harvesting the local fruits and vegetables and learned about the agricultural heritage of the region. Participating volunteers included beneficiaries of the FAO Green jobs and Sustainable Income Opportunities for Palestinian Youth in the Agri-food Sector programme, Y-Peers, the UN Thematic Group on Youth and young people from Battir.

At the beginning of the event all the participants were welcomed by Ms Noha Bawazir, UNESCO’s Head of Office, then briefed by UNESCO’s colleagues about Battir as a World Heritage site, and the unique water distribution system currently used by the Battir families. This specific type of irrigation is a legacy of an ancient equal distribution system that delivers water to the terraces based on a simple mathematical calculation and a clear time-managed rotation scheme called ‘’Almadoud’’.

Following the briefing, the volunteers had the chance to meet with the local farmers and learn directly from them about the way of harvesting different types of local vegetables, including the famous Battiri eggplants which is picked in the summer season. The visit continued to the Ottoman-era Hijaz railway track and finally with a traditional Palestinian lunch when they also met with the Battiri women who prepared the food. The event was an extraordinary opportunity for the young volunteers to get to know important elements of their heritage that often go unnoticed.

The youth needs to be empowered to collectively and individually make efforts to restore the environment and protect life and biodiversity, while also promoting a sustainable food culture among their communities. The IYD is an opportunity to highlight the fact that for new results to be achieved, the youth should be properly informed and included as main stakeholders in such discussions. Young people hold a crucial role in working towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and related frameworks and need to be given the right tools to succeed.

UNESCO Ramallah Office also produced a video for the IYD to promote the event in Battir. The video wants to highlight that while young people are encouraged to innovate food systems, the preservation of what remains of the traditional practices is an essential learning tool.