The Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS) was established in Ramallah in 1998 by a group of scholars, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists who saw a need for the promotion of democratic values among the Palestinian people. Since then, RCHRS has been guided by a commitment to respond to this need and we remain at the forefront in supporting a culture of human rights, democracy, equality and tolerance in Palestine The principles of tolerance and human rights have become the main pillars of RCHRS’s work.
RCHRS’s main activities include theoretical and applied research, community projects, educational programs, outreach and advocacy work. RCHRS also documents and raises awareness of human rights violations in Palestine and advocates for the need to safeguard justice and fundamental freedoms for all. In recent years, RCHRS has published a growing number of reports and books. We also publish the quarterly journal Tasamuh (Tolerance) and the monthly student newsletter Free Education. RCHRS’s projects and publications are now reaching thousands of university students, academics, and activists as well as other members of Palestinian society and the broader Arab world.
RCHRS works throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and is able to reach isolated and marginalized areas through a wide network of associated individuals and institutions. Following the events in Gaza in June 2007 and within the context of ongoing internal division in Palestine, RCHRS was inspired to expand its reach and open up a new branch in Gaza. This branch allows RCHRS the ability communicate the values of tolerance, human rights and democracy to all Palestinians, even those most marginalized by the occupation.
In 2008, RCHRS established the Arab Network of Tolerance. This is a forum where activists, academics, media professionals and youth can come together to identify new strategies for improving the human rights situation in their region. Even though RCHRS concentrates its efforts on Palestine, the Center remains eager to broaden its international reach an it welcomes future partnerships and collaborative initiatives.
Although RCHRS’s program may change slightly from year to year our agenda continues to be guided by five key themes:
· Tolerance, equity and justice based on inter-religious, inter-cultural and democratic dialogue
· Intellectual and academic freedom
· Educational and cultural rights
· Democracy, human rights and civil society
· Freedom of opinion, belief and expression.
RCHRS’s aims to:
· strengthen the culture of human rights and tolerance in Palestinian society and support inter-religious, inter-cultural and non-violent dialogue both at the local and regional level
· protect and promote educational rights and academic freedoms in Palestinian educational institutions
· improve the conditions of civil liberties, freedom of belief, opinion and expression as well as media freedom in Palestine. We also strive to document violations of these principles.
· raise public awareness and support the development of democratic processes and good governance.
Applied and Theoretical Research
RCHRS relies on a wide network of researchers and associated institutions that contribute their theoretical and applied research on issues relevant to human rights and freedoms in Palestine. Debate, constructive critiques and peer review of these studies are a crucial part of the research process. As such, RCHRS publishes its research widely in books and reports that are distributed locally, internationally and on the internet. These publications are of a high academic standard and are published in Arabic with an introduction in English.
Publications: Studies, Journals, Reports and Newsletters
Regular publications include the quarterly journal Tasamuh (Tolerance), the student publication Free Education, several reports and studies focusing on tolerance, academic and public freedom and human rights in the Palestinian Territories, and numerous free brochures and pamphlets.
Local and International Conferences, Workshops and Seminars
One key area RCHRS focuses on is facilitating dialogue between various social groups especially young people. Recent projects include Tolerance Among University Students, a training course for students in the West Bank and Gaza. In this workshop topics such as the importance of tolerance, academic freedom, democracy and civil rights were discussed. Students from a variety of social, ideological and religious backgrounds took part.
RCHRS also holds monthly meetings for representatives from local and international media, civil society organizations and academic institutions. Participants discuss recent events in Palestinian politics and the impact these events have on public security and human rights. The goal is to encourage political leaders to adopt policies and practices that further democracy and enhance civil liberties.
Reaching Isolated and Marginalized Areas
The ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip has meant not only physical fragmentation of Palestinian society but also a social and cultural fragmentation. As a result RCHRS sees it as critical that the Center try and reach as many isolated and marginalized areas as possible. We do this through a wide network of associates that work in many local communities.
The political events in Gaza in June 2007 and the ongoing internal division in Palestine, prompted the center to expand its reach even further by opening a branch in Gaza. This has allowed RCHRS to continue its activities in this volatile region ensuring that the values of tolerance, human rights and democracy continue to be communicated to all Palestinians.
RCHRS’s internal structure is founded upon the principle of pluralism. Our staff includes secular, Muslim, Christian and Samaritan men and women with differing ideological orientations and social and economic backgrounds. This diversity in our employees reflects the Center’s strong belief in tolerance and our appreciation of difference.
RCHRS receives regular input on its objectives and activities through a biyearly convention in which friends and associates of the Center are invited to share their ideas and concerns, evaluate or projects and provide valuable feedback on our work.