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Building peace through environmental co-operation


Brigid Veale
1 July 2008
In a ground-breaking event an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian Muslim will demonstrate how environmental co-operation is a tool for building peace.

In a joint presentation at the Activating Human Rights and Peace Conference, which starts today (July 1) at the Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre, the two international speakers will share their own incredible stories of personal and professional transformation.

The conference, which is being hosted by Southern Cross University’s Centre for Peace and Social Justice, begins today (July 1) with a keynote address by High Court judge, the Honourable Justice Michael Kirby.

The conference will continue until Friday, featuring a host of international speakers including: Professor Adrien Wing, from Iowa University, who will speak on Global Critical Race Feminism, Dr Aruna Gopinath, from HELP University College, Kuala Lumpur – Democracy and Human Rights in South East Asia, and Indonesia’s Dr Dede Oetomo who helped found Indonesia’s first homosexual organisation.

Ilana Meallem (an Israeli Jew) and Muttassim Abu El Hawa (a Palestinian Muslim) will give their presentation, ‘Shared concerns in a region of conflict - environmental co-operation as a tool for building peace’ on Thursday.

The pair graduated from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) in 2004 and have remained active within the organisation. Muttassim is presently working for the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI,) collecting data on environmental issues in the Palestinian Territories while Ilana has pioneered studies into the environmental and public health issues on a Bedouin community.

The AIES, situated on Kibbutz Ketura (a communal agricultural settlement,) at the southern tip of Israel, is a unique higher education institution aiming at generating the new core of regional leaders working for the advancement of real peace through the management of a better environment.

For over 10 years the institute has been teaching environmental studies to university students (both undergraduate and graduate) from all over the Middle East and the world offering courses in an interdisciplinary framework that includes the sciences, social sciences and socio-cultural studies as it pertains to environmental studies.

“The Arava Institute is however, much more than just another university - it is a place of learning infused with values where students get a loud, clear message that they are expected to be themselves and to learn about others, and that they will make the world a better place,” Ilana said

Ilana and Muttassim will be speaking at the conference at the Byron Bay Community and Cultural Centre on Thursday at 9am.

Photo: Ilana Meallem will join with Muttassim Abu El Hawa for a presentation at the Activating Human Rights and Peace Conference.