Since 2010, the EEC has held an environmental awareness and education conference every December in Bethlehem. The conference provides an opportunity for community members, scholars, researchers, activists, NGOs, and government officials to come together to discuss environmental issues in Palestine and how to work together for a cleaner and healthier Palestinian environment.
The First Conference (2010): The Individual and Collective Environmental Responsibility
The first conference was held in Bethlehem in December 2010. Its primary goal was to make environmental issues a priority of official institutions and NGOs in Palestine. It focused on the challenges facing the environment in Palestine and outlined the destruction caused by the Israeli occupation, including the construction of bypass roads and settlements, uprooting trees, and damaging farmland. The occupation has taken control of natural resources, including water, and put in place thousands of military laws that target the environment and natural resources. The conference emphasized that working collectively with government institutions, NGOs, and the communities of Palestine is the only way to face these environmental issues. The 2010 conference determined that a national strategy, based on three main axes of education, media, and law, is the best method of combating environmental degradation in Palestine. Suggestions and recommendations that resulted from this conference were explored by the EEC and other relevant institutions and authorities.
The Second Conference (2011): Environmental Responsibility for Youth
The second annual conference, held in December 2011, focused on enhancing the responsibility and capabilities of youth in environmental work. Participants at the conference concentrated on the environmental education of youth and the promotion of successful youth work. Participants stressed the importance of developing environmental programs within existing education institutions. The conference included work groups divided among the three main axes: environmental realities, environmental education, and the situation of youth. These work groups discussed the roles of various institutions at the end of the conference and provided recommendations to the EEC.
The Third Conference (2012): Eco-Justice for Palestine
The third environmental education and awareness conference, held in December 2012, focused on the responsibility of international and local communities to protect the Palestinian environment from destruction caused by the Israeli occupation. The four axes of this conference included environmental reality, international reports, environmental justice, and sustainable in development. Discussions focused on the occupation’s violations and destruction of Palestine’s environment, establishing that ending the occupation is the only way to achieve justice in all aspects, including environmental justice.
A series of local initiatives were launched in 2013 as a result of the conference, aiming to develop the community’s environmental awareness and condemn the crimes of the occupation. NGOs and international institutions partnered to create an action plan, which included continuous environmental clean-up campaigns.
The conference also included a field tour to Bethlehem and Hebron, focusing on Israeli violations and environmental destruction caused by settlers. Participants learned how settlers dump sewage water into the valleys and throw metal into towns and villages. The conference concluded with group discussions on how best to raise awareness about violations of the occupation that negatively affect the environment and life in Palestine.
The Fourth Conference (2013): Environmental Responsibility for Civil Society: Challenges, Solutions, and Roles
The fourth conference was structured differently than the first three, focusing on the creation of an action plan for addressing the problem and setting a clear timetable for officials and NGOs to follow. It is important to creative positive change in addition to discussing the occupation’s environmental degradation. The conference was divided into five axes, each with its own focus for addressing the situation.
The first axis, law, focused on developing enforceable policies and plans, as well as discussing legal mechanisms and legislation in place for implementing regulations and procedures, in order to change the environmental legal scene. The second axis was devoted to culture and media, discussing was to develop environmental awareness in popular culture and the media, as well as roles that various individuals and organizations will assume. The third axis discussed methods of integrating applied environmental education into school systems and how to use this education to increase environmental awareness in society outside of schools. The fourth axis, public policies and environmental protection, focused on initiatives to further the conservation and prevent damage on the ground. Finally, the fifth axis, focusing on advocacy and environmental justice, pressured responsible institutions to change their priorities and to take action. An opinion paper was issued at the conclusion of the conference, detailing procedures to follow in order to prosecute the occupation in international institutions.
The Fifth Conference (2014): Eco-Justice between Violations by the Occupation and Infringements by the Community
The fifth conference discussed both the effects of the occupation on the environment as well as the lack of awareness and destruction caused by Palestinian communities. The conference created a joint action plan to be implemented over the next five years by the EEC, government institutions, and other civil society organizations and NGOs. The conference highlighted the importance of scientific research and working with international institutions and the government in Palestine. It also discussed methods of educating the public and encouraging citizens to refrain from environmentally-damaging practices.
The sixth conference (2015); The Gravest Environmental Challenges in Palestine: Reality and Solution Mechanisms
The Sixth Palestinian Environmental Awareness and Education Conference was organized by the Environmental Education Center (EEC)/ the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in Bethlehem November 25-26, 2015. The conference called for a package of measures to encounter the present environmental challenges nationwide and highlighted the challenges and the environmental reality in Palestine and proposed solution mechanisms.
The conference was inaugurated and under the patronage of the Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan – the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and the President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and was attended by his Excellency the Minister of Agriculture and representative of Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Sufian Sultan, his Excellency the governor of Bethlehem , General Jibrin Bakri, the governor of Jericho, General Majid Fitiani, the Swedish Consul and representative of the Swedish government, Dr. Johan Schaar, the Vice President of the Environmental Quality Authority, Mr. Jamil Mtour, the Director of Education of the Lutheran Schools, Dr. Charlie Haddad, the Executive Director of the EEC, Mr. Simon Awad, clergy people including Bishop Atallah Hanna, Mufti Abdel Majid Ata and Pastor Ashraf Tannous, mayors, representatives of international organizations, government officials, security services and NGO`s official, experts and environmental specialists.
The panelists highlighted the gravest environmental challenges in Palestine including solid waste, wastewater, radioactive contamination and agricultural pesticides that all have grave hazards on our environment. They also emphasized the importance of the role of public and private sectors in encountering environmental challenges and seeking adequate solutions nationwide.
The closing statement of the conference called for exposing the devastating Israeli violations of the Palestinian environment, and called upon the Palestinian leadership and decision makers in continuing the process of accessing international organizations and relevant international conventions, so that they provide international legal protection for the Palestinian environment.
The conference also sustained the role of media in highlighting the most dangerous environmental challenges and launching specialized green programs in coordination with media and environmental organizations towards promoting the awareness of people in this regard.
The panelists and participants called for sustaining the concepts of environmental governance and good management of environmental resources via promoting environmental awareness and tightening popular control measures. A consensus among the participants was to promote scientific research via calling universities as well as public and private sectors to conduct intensive research on environmental related issues, and to institutionalize applied research towards protecting the environment.
The closing statement called for developing green initiatives on the part of both individuals and institutions and enacting relevant laws. The statement emphasized the revival of the fifth of March (it being the Palestinian environment day) through partnership with stakeholders in order to collate and unify efforts towards having a unified national code for the sake of dealing and documenting violations against our environment.
The participants have declared their adoption of Bishop Younan`s initiative in announcing the years 2016 and 2017 as the years for a clean Palestine, during which several activities and joined efforts will take place to keep our towns and refugee camps clean and to offset violations against our biodiversity.
The conference sustained that protecting the environment is both individual and collective responsibility. The conference also called for strengthening the role of the environmental police.
An appeal was sent to the participants in the climate conference (COP 21) that is taking place at the end of this month in Paris and aims at achieving global eco-justice as a prelude to a political justice worldwide.
The participants called upon the conferees of Paris to provide international protection for our people, environment, biodiversity, heritage and to other environmental elements and put an end to the Israeli violations against our people and environment that have been going on since the war of 1967.