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UN-Backed Palestine Rehabilitation Forum Announced

UN-Backed Palestine Rehabilitation Forum Announces Development Initiatives

New initiatives - from planting trees to helping businesswomen - aimed at fostering development in the Palestinian territories have been announced at the conclusion of a four-day United Nations-backed Arab International Forum held in Beirut.

The Forum, which ended yesterday, achieved its goal of providing a coordinated Palestinian vision for development despite criticisms that planning for development at a time of war and occupation was futile, said Mervat Tallawy, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which helped to organize the event.

"The voice of the people will be heard, and it will be a stronger voice," she said, adding, "It is high time to take our courage and make our voices heard regardless of what governments are doing, not just for the Palestinian people but for all of humankind."

The new initiatives included a project to replant 1 million trees in the Palestinian territories by the Association for Agricultural Relief in Palestine and the Al-Arabiah for Nature Protection, in cooperation with ESCWA as well as the establishment of a network of regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to strengthen civil society in Palestine. Also announced were plans to create a start-up fund aimed at boosting small business for women, and an ESCWA initiative to train Palestinian and Arab journalists.

During the Conference, numerous participants focused on the need to support the basic human rights of Palestinians, such as the rights to education, freedom from occupation and an independent economy. They also stressed the need to better integrate the Palestinian economy into the global arena.

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