JERUSALEM, April 4, 2002 -- We are gravely concerned by the recent escalation in the conflict, which threatens to consign to history the unique opportunity for conciliation which the international donor community has pursued so vigorously since 1993. We are very disturbed by the life-threatening conditions under which the Palestinian civilian population is currently living, as well as the continuous deconstruction of the Palestinian economy over the past 18 months. The damage to livelihoods, infrastructure and organizational capacity runs counter to any serious pursuit of peace and security.
Recent damage to infrastructure and property comes on top of the serious recession in the Palestinian economy over the past 18 months, the most grave indicator of which is the increase in the proportion of the population living in poverty – less than $2 per day – to a half of those living in the West Bank and Gaza. The most important cause of economic decline is the policy of closure. Lifting closure – within the context of the implementation of UNSCR 1402 – would do more than all other economic measures to alleviate this situation.
We urge the Government of Israel to ensure that full respect is given to humanitarian principles, and that relief workers, who are risking their lives to assist the injured, the sick and the needy, are given unimpeded freedom of mobility. The IDF should also desist from the destruction of water pumps, electricity generators and sub-stations, roads, schools, hospitals and business premises.
The situation will be even more severe, if the actions we are witnessing in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin, Qalqilya and Nablus are sustained, or if closure is tightened further. If this occurs we will witness a steep slide into more widespread poverty and hopelessness. This is not an atmosphere in which any of us can call for non-violence and reconciliation and expect to have much of an audience.
In this context, it is important to recognize the essential function and achievements of the Palestinian Authority in providing basic essential services under very adverse conditions during the past 18 months. Should the Palestinian Authority be incapacitated or de-legitimized the donor community would lose its main channel of assistance to the Palestinian people. This would carry enormous costs -- in Palestinian suffering and in the further contraction of any hopes for peace and security.
The donors are a vital part of the political process. They have invested some US$4.5 billion of taxpayers' money in the West Bank and Gaza since 1993. This has gone mainly towards building viable institutions, and for the infrastructure of peace – to roads, water systems, electricity networks, schools and hospitals – assets that are now being damaged or destroyed. This is a matter of tremendous concern to the international community.
We believe that immediate priority should be given to the following:
First, civilians on both sides must be protected from harm, as per the obligations on all parties under international law;
Second, it is crucial that full mobility be granted to humanitarian workers, and that curfews be lifted to permit citizens to have access to medical care, food and water;
Third, destruction of valuable capital infrastructure provided to the Palestinian people by the international community should cease;
Fourth, the Government of Israel is urged to lift the closure as soon as possible, within the context of the implementation of UNSCR 1402;
Fifth, the donors should seek to provide timely and adequate financing to the activities of humanitarian agencies, in particular NGOs and UNRWA. UNRWA has a deficit of some US$85 million on its current Palestinian emergency appeal, as well as having received less than US$1 million of the US$35 million pledged so far to that appeal.
Sixth, donors also need to continue providing budget support to the PA and the municipalities. In this context we would urge the Arab League to quickly develop a mechanism to turn their generous recent pledge into a regular flow of funds to the PA .
Seventh, donors should also gear up for a rapid review of recent additional physical damage, and should join forces in creating a quick-disbursing fund to repair damaged infrastructure assets.
Eighth, donors should also work on developing more effective mechanisms to address unemployment and hardship, both by scaling up current activities which provide food, cash and/or jobs, as well as working more closely with one another.