Youth Local Councils awarded $100,000 McNulty Prize for Innovative Model Of Youth Democracy

November 1, 2017

Lana Abu-Hijleh and Youth Local Councils is the recipient of the 10th annual John P. McNulty Prize

Contact: Nina Sawhney
McNulty Foundation

Douglas Farrar
The Aspen Institute

New York, NY November 1, 2017––The McNulty Foundation today announced Lana Abu-Hijleh and Youth Local Councils as the recipient of the tenth annual John P. McNulty Prize. Ms. Abu-Hijleh is being honored for pioneering a program that engages over 25,000 youth in the West Bank, and has expanded to Honduras and Ukraine. Through voluntary bodies of elected youth, the Youth Local Councils enable young people to practice leadership and good governance, receive hundreds of hours of training, and propose, plan and execute community projects.

“Youth Local Councils are exporting a model of civic engagement and democracy that is critically needed around the world,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, chair of the McNulty Prize jury. “While faith in democracy itself may be declining, here, young people are choosing involvement over disengagement.”

The $100,000 McNulty Prize recognizes leaders who harness the innovation and excellence that characterized their career success to create replicable, sustainable models for addressing seemingly intractable global challenges.

“Leadership writ large is in crisis around the world. Youth Local Councils invest in the next generation in the most positive way, giving young people the tools and platform to make their voices heard and to lead effectively,” said McNulty Foundation President and Aspen Institute Trustee Anne Welsh McNulty.

Watch the short documentary on Lana Abu-Hijleh and the Youth Local Councils, and learn more about the McNulty Foundation at 

Building The Next Generation Of Leaders
Trained as a civil engineer, Lana Abu-Hijleh has dedicated her career to the economic development of Palestine and the region, including 17 years with the United Nations Development Program, and now as Country Director of Global Communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 2008, she founded the Youth Local Councils to engage young Palestinians and build their leadership skills and experience in self-government. The councils reflect the positions and structure of local municipal councils, and are held and elected by youth ages 15-22. What began as a pilot with 700 youth in four communities now engages over 25,000 youth in more than 40 communities in the West Bank. Members serve two-year terms and receive hundreds of hours of training, and participate in budgetary and leadership decisions on real projects in their communities—from making municipal buildings accessible to people with disabilities, to building parks for families and communities, to collaborative advocacy campaigns that influence national policy.

Youth Local Councils alumni are now assuming positions of leadership in civil society and international nonprofit organizations, and in the public sector as elected city councilmembers and deputy mayors. Furthermore, the model has been replicated abroad in Honduras and Ukraine.

“The challenges that young people face are not unique to Palestine,” said Lana Abu-Hijleh. “The Youth Local Councils have given them the hope they need to invest in their own countries and communities, and not turn to despair, violence or any other form of extremism.”

The John P. McNulty Prize was founded by Anne Welsh McNulty in memory of her late husband, to recognize the boldness and impact of individuals using their exceptional leadership abilities and entrepreneurial talents to address the world’s toughest challenges. Celebrating a decade of galvanizing high-impact leadership, the McNulty Prize has honored over 40 of the most impactful social ventures from Fellows of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

A distinguished jury, including Secretary Madeleine Albright, Ugandan statesman Olara Otunnu, international development expert Brizio Biondi-Morra and Ford Foundation president Darren Walker selected the 2017 winner. Previous juries have included Mary Robinson, Bill Gates, Sr., and Sir Richard Branson, among others.

Middle East Leadership Initiative Fellow Lana Abu-Hijleh, along with her venture Youth Local Councils, was one of four Laureates selected from the Aspen Global Leadership Network. The 2017 Laureates include Carolina Freire for Voluntarios de Panamá in Panama, Bruce Robertson for TRAIL in Uganda, and Amjad Tadros for Syria Direct in Jordan. Each Laureate receives $25,000. The 2017 Winner and Laureates will be honored at the annual McNulty Prize reception in New York on November 8, with a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the McNulty Prize.

Tune in at 6:30pm EST on November 8 for a live interview with Lana Abu-Hijleh, hosted on Twitter @AspenInstitute. Follow @McNultyPrize and join the conversation #McNultyPrize.

The Middle East Leadership Initiative (MELI) identifies and motivates proven business, government and civil society leaders from countries in the Middle East—encompassing all countries in the region, including those in the Gulf Cooperation Council—to apply their unique skills and platforms to solving pressing societal challenges in their communities and countries.

The Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) is a growing, worldwide community of high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders from business, government, and the nonprofit sector, with over 2,500 Fellows from 50 countries who share a commitment to enlightened leadership and to using their extraordinary creativity, energy, and resources to tackle the foremost societal challenges of our time. All share the common experience of participating in the Henry Crown Fellowship or one of the many Aspen Institute leadership initiatives it has inspired in the U.S., Africa, Central America, India, China, and the Middle East. For more information, visit   

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

View Comments