A pioneering Community
in West Bank & Gaza
June 2008- Clustered in a three bedroom apartment, in the premises of a women’s NGO in Al-Zaitoon neighborhood of Gaza, around fifty women were working busily. Some were making couscous and pastries; others were creating ceramic artifacts, while the rest in a third room were embroidering. “Part of the products are sold and distributed to needy families in the neighborhood; that is how the work is sustained,” the head of the NGO commented. One of the women shyly explained how the Integrated Community Development Project gave her a golden opportunity to earn a living through its job creation program under conditions of conflict induced poverty and unemployment. Just as important, she added that the program gave her an opportunity to establish new friendships, helping her cope with the stress and isolation.
The World Bank has funded several community development projects in the West Bank and Gaza where community empowerment and inclusion of marginalized groups have been far reaching goals. Building on lessons learned from these projects (ICDP, PNGO, CDPI&II, etc), the Bank is supporting a pioneering new community driven development project, the Village and Neighborhood Development Project (VNDP) where poor marginalized communities will be in the driver’s seat to lead their own development process.
With USD $10 million divided between the West Bank and Gaza, the VNDP has been carefully designed to cater to that objective. The project will support small communities in planning local initiatives, and prioritizing needs through an inclusive and participatory process. It will also provide small grants to support joint activities among several village councils for subprojects that are part of the local plan within their regions. This will provide incentives for small communities to work together and eventually amalgamate and become a municipality. In the process, these communities will “learn-by–doing,” the skills of community planning, benefits of collaboration with other communities for common needs, mobilizing resources for development and improving local level coordination.
A locally elected leader attending one of the project’s workshops eloquently expressed the value of the VNDP in enhancing social cohesion, “In the current political circumstances with the deep divide in Palestinian politics, this project will help bring people closer together, encourage dialogue among communities, and exemplify the fact that communities can achieve common goals with a real democratic participatory process”. The team conducted extensive workshops in both Gaza and the West Bank to reach out and incorporate into the project design the ideas, needs, and concerns of local communities. The project will be implemented at the local level with oversight from the Ministry of Local Government and Technical Assistance to communities provided by specialized consultants/NGOs. Clearly as in the case of implementing community development projects, implementation of VNDP is a difficult task, the goals, however, are noble. The Bank team, together with their counterparts in the MoLG, are determined to make it a success.