Juran takes leading role in Mideast civil society initiative

Civil Engineering Professor Ilan Juran has taken a leading role in promoting an international initiative to support dialogue between leaders of Israeli and Palestinian civil societies.

At the United Nations’ International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East Seminar, held in Tokyo on June 26 and 27, Juran, chairing the Steering Committee, with the cooperation of Israeli and Palestinian mayors and leaders of non-governmental organizations, presented a number of initiatives. They involved intercommunity cooperation in the areas of professional education, science and technology, public health, economic development, urban and environmentally sustainable coastal development, among other initiatives. The Steering Committee also met with the governor of Tokyo to explore ways to promote further international cooperation in support of regional initiatives with the involvement of regional and international stakeholders.  

Juran was designated the chair of the Israeli-Palestinian Civil Society Initiative at last year’s Seminar in Moscow. The Initiative was inspired by grassroots cooperation developed 10 years ago by two former mayors, the late Aown Shawa of Gaza and Benny Vaknin of Ashkelon. Under the leadership of current Gaza Mayor Abu-Ramadan and Ashdod Mayor Zvi Zilker, the Civil Society Initiative aspires to facilitate decentralized cooperation among Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations and local governments in areas of mutual concern towards sustainable regional development.

“With the players on the ground ready to cooperate, it is important to help them launch their initiatives to address common concerns,” said Juran. “I propose a workshop to assess how to move forward, under the leadership of the United Nations system and with the participation of donors and international organizations. An institutional structure should be put in place to coordinate international support.”

The International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East aims to “provide impetus and support for a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and to help them sustain their hopes for a peaceful future,” said Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka.