The Arab Center for Alternative Planning (ACAP), a non-governmental, non-profit organization located in Eilaboun, Israel (Galilee), was established in December 2000. ACAP has developed into a national address that represents the genuine needs and interests of the Arab citizens of Israel on issues of planning, land, housing, and development. In January 2004, ACAP was recognized by the Ministry of the Interior as a public organization with the legal right to intervene in official planning procedures, and file objections to national, district and local plans as an independent legal entity. This was a landmark achievement since ACAP is the first-ever and only Arab organization in Israel that holds recognized official status from the Ministry of Interior as a public organization with the legal right to interfere in official planning procedures, and file objections against any local, regional, or national plan that adversely affects the interests and rights of the Arab minority.
ACAP works towards equality and integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into public life activities, while preserving their cultural features and national identity, and closing existing gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel in various spheres of life, including housing, planning, infrastructure, transportation, social services, education, environment, and employment. ACAP advances these aims and serves the Arab population through a highly professional team of urban planners and other relevant professionals.
ACAP’s goals and objectives include:
Empowering Arab municipalities, leaders, planning professionals, and the public to protect basic human rights related to planning. Advocating for more democratic planning practices and policies towards the Arab minority. Systematically monitoring, evaluating, and following-up all State official decisions on plans, land, and development projects concerning the Arab minority. Raising public awareness on discriminatory plans that abuse planning rights and as needed, work with the community to file legal objections or create alternative planning solutions. Promoting Arab-Jewish cooperation in planning for economic, social, and human development of all Israeli citizens. Conducting research on social and economic planning problems that affect Arab communities in order to develop possible solutions and alternatives for coping with such issues. In order to meet these objectives, ACAP implements activities primarily in three different tracks:
1. Watchdog Function
ACAP acts as a watchdog to systematically monitor, evaluate, respond, challenge and follow-up all State plans and decisions that adversely affect the Arab minority, advocate for changes and amendments in discriminatory plans according to alternative vision developed by ACAP’s planning professionals and public representatives, and file objections to appeal committees and courts against any abuse of planning-human rights. In order to implement this watchdog function, ACAP works to raise public awareness of Arab planners, municipality engineers and leaders, community activists, and public figures regarding any State plans that adversely affect their communities and work with these communities to write legal objections against implementation of such plans. Furthermore, ACAP initiates media campaigns, dialogue, lobbying efforts, and the creation of coalitions to advocate State planning institutions and decision makers to: Legislate more democratic principles and policies towards the Arab minority regarding the allocation of resources and public lands, equality in representation, transparency in planning procedures, and social and environmental justice in planning. Accept filed legal objections against plans and policies that discriminate against the Arab minority and abuse basic rights in planning. Accept alternative plans and solutions that better suit the genuine needs of the Arab minority.
2. Public Outreach and Education
Among ACAP’s aims is to raise awareness regarding planning issues and problems and planning rights. This is done through: Organization of seminars, conferences, study days, and training workshops to raise awareness of Arab planners, municipality engineers and leaders, community activists, and public figures regarding planning issues that affect their townships and ways to cope with these problems. Implementation of workshop series that initiate dialogue between State planners, government officials, and professionals and Arab planners, professionals, and municipal leadership in order to develop mutual understanding, awareness, and cooperation regarding planning issues. Implementation of various initiatives that aim to raise public awareness and education regarding planning, including offering scholarships to encourage Arab students to purse higher education and conduct graduate research studies in urban planning, specifically on planning issues and dilemmas that exist in the Arab sector, hosting university students as volunteer interns, among others.
3. Professional Planning Activities
Within this sphere of work, ACAP implements planning research to examine and understand predominant issues and problems, in various spheres of life including economic, social, educational, environment, health, and employment, that affect the development of Arab communities. ACAP also provides planning consultation and counseling services to municipalities, The Arab Forum of Mayors and Local Council Heads, Higher Follow-up Committee on Arab Affairs, Arab political and civilian leaders, NGO’s, community activists, and other planning professionals.