Folke Bernadotte Academy – Swedish agency for peace, security and development

Sofia Zitouni

Political adviser in Palestine

Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) is a civilian mission observing and reporting on the situation in the city of Hebron, located in the West Bank in Palestine.

The mission was established in 1997, called for by Israeli and Palestinian authorities, and it is upheld by six contributing countries, among them Sweden. Sofia Zitouni is on secondment from the FBA as political adviser to TIPH.

Sofia, can you describe a typical day at work?

– My work is all about following the regional political development, and its potential impact on Hebron and TIPH. I provide the mission, especially the mission leadership, with political analysis and strategic advice. I have to create a personal network and meet with various local actors in order to stay up to date with regional and local dynamics and events. Every day is different. One day I may go on patrol with TIPH’s observers to get an overview of the situation in a certain area, and the next day I may have a meeting with a local actor such as the mayor of Hebron. I also give lectures to visitors on the situation in Hebron and the role of TIPH.

What did you do prior to your secondment to TIPH?

– I have been working with development aid during most of my professional life, with a focus on human rights and democracy in countries affected by conflict or political instability. Prior to my secondment to TIPH I have been stationed at Swedish embassies and consulates in Bosnia, Egypt, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Jerusalem. I have been especially fascinated by the Middle East ever since studying Arabic and Middle Eastern studies at university.

Why is your work in TIPH important and what challenges do you face?

– TIPH’s mandate is to observe and report on breaches of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. We stay in regular contact with the Israeli and Palestinian representatives in the city. Hebron is the only city on the West Bank that is divided between Israelis and Palestinians, and there is strong tension between the Palestinian and the Jewish parts. The greatest challenge is facing people’s frustration over the long-running conflict and its consequences, and to keep faith with a solution to the conflict.

Photo: TIPH

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