In 1961, the UN General Assembly declared the sixties as “The United Nations Development Decade” with the aim of stimulating the economic and social advancement of developing countries, nearly two thirds of the world’s people.
In 1966 there were 30 overseas work camps as well as study camps in the UK and there were also opportunities for one to three years’ service for suitably qualified volunteers in Asia, Africa and Latin America over 50 new projects with UN agencies.
In 1968 the UNA Human Rights Committee was established
“We know that the question of human rights and the question of peace are closely related. Without recognition of human rights, we shall never have peace and it is only within the framework of peace that human rights can be fully developed.”
Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary General of the UN 1953 - 1961
And war was still very real.
Peter Aley was a British volunteer at the Men’s Teacher Training College, Ramallah in Palestine 1965 - 6 where he met his Palestinian wife, Jeanette who was teaching at the Women’s Teacher Training Centre; two new centres offering 400 men and 300 women a chance for education, opportunity and employment.
“Teaching is an important profession in the Middle East as elsewhere and the training of teachers has a prominent place in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Not only does the Agency need qualified teachers for its own 403 schools but there is a shortage of teachers throughout the Arab world. A diploma from an UNRWA Teacher Training Centre opens the way to a worthwhile career and ensures that the young refugee will be able to earn a living.”
Jeanette was from West Jerusalem pre-1948 and the family moved to Bethlehem when their house and business was burned down.
They were meant to marry in June 1967 but the Six Day War put paid to that and then Peter was denied access to go to Bethlehem, Jerusalem. He contacted the Manchester Guardian at the time regarding his predicament which eventually lead to a change of mind . Peter and Jeanette succeeded in tying the knot in the British Consulate with a ceremony in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem on August 27th 1967. “But there was a power cut so the organ didn’t work and the car taking us back to reception broke down”, laughs Peter as he recalls overcoming all the barriers to their romance.
Peter shares his wonderful photographs and documents here. “My time as a volunteer made a huge difference in my life, it changed everything. I knew nothing at all about the situation before I went there. It gave me a real taste for the Middle East and I travelled all over. Now we have two children who are very proud to be 50% Palestinian and 50% British.”