Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Bulletin mensuel de la DDP - Vol.XXX, No.2 - bulletin du Comité pour l’exercice des droits inaliénables du peuple palestinien/DDP (février 2007) - Publication de la Division des droits palestiniens Français

Español
Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter

Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP)
28 February 2007


February 2007

Volume XXX, Bulletin No. 2



I. QUARTET PRINCIPALS ISSUE STATEMENT

The following statement was issued by the Quartet principals on 2 February 2007 (UN press release SG/2122:

The Quartet Principals - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner - met today in Washington to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The Quartet welcomed its new members, the Secretary-General and the representative of the EU Presidency, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Recognizing the critical need to end the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, which would contribute to security and stability in the region, the Quartet pledged to support efforts to put in place a process with the goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and creating an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, and reaffirmed its commitment to a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

The Quartet expressed the hope that the result-oriented dialogue initiated between Israeli and Palestinian leaders will continue in the framework of a renewed political process with the aim of launching meaningful negotiations.

The Quartet undertook to give active follow-up to these meetings and to remain closely engaged at this moment of increased activity and dialogue. The Quartet reaffirmed its commitment to meet regularly at both the principals and envoys level according to an agreed calendar, including with the parties and other regional partners, to monitor developments and actions taken by the parties and to discuss the way ahead.

The Quartet noted its support for renewed dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and welcomed the 23 December meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas, and the subsequent implementation of some steps discussed at that meeting. The Quartet urged the parties to implement fully steps discussed at the 23 December meeting, to refrain from taking any measures that could predetermine the number of issues that will be resolved in negotiations, to meet their respective obligations under phase one of the Road Map and under the Agreement on Movement and Access, and to seek to fulfill their obligations under the Sharm el-Sheikh Understandings of 2005.

The Quartet discussed United States efforts to facilitate discussions between the parties. The Quartet welcomed the upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas, and Secretary of State Rice, that could begin to define more clearly the political horizon for the
Palestinian people, and help engender a sense of partnership. The Quartet affirmed the primacy of the Road Map, and welcomed U.S. efforts to accelerate progress on the Road Map.

The Quartet noted the continuing importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, particularly its reflection of a shared commitment to a two-State solution.

The Quartet reiterated its call for an immediate and unconditional end to all acts of violence and terror. It condemned the suicide bombing in Eilat on 29 January and called once again for an immediate end to all rocket attacks against Israel.

The Quartet expressed its deep concern at the violence among Palestinians and called for respect for law and order.

The Quartet called for continued international assistance to the Palestinian people, and encouraged donors to focus on preserving and building the capacity of institutions of Palestinian governance as well as the development of the Palestinian economy. The Quartet welcomed international efforts to welcome - to reform the Palestinian security sector and thus to help improve law and order for the Palestinian people. It called for the Temporary International Mechanism to be further developed to support the political process, to identify suitable projects for international support in the areas of governance, institution building and economic development, and urged other members of the international community to consider practical support to the parties.

The Quartet called for Palestinian unity in support of a government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. The Quartet reaffirmed that these principles endure.

The Quartet reiterated its call for the Palestinian Authority government to commit to these principles.


II. UNITED NATIONS AGENCIES ISSUE STATEMENT ON SITUATION
IN GAZA

The following statement on the situation in the Gaza Strip was issued by the United Nations Agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory namely: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO).

We, the United Nations Agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory, are extremely alarmed by the deteriorating security situation in Gaza. The upsurge of violence, which has taken the lives of innocent civilians, is also putting our workers on the ground at serious risk. It is becoming extremely difficult for us to fulfill our humanitarian mandates to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. The implications of this for a population already facing extreme hardship are grave. We remain determined to continue with our humanitarian work.

We call for an immediate end to the violence, respect by all parties for the human rights of the population in Gaza and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of women, children and other unarmed civilians. We appeal to the parties to refrain from any action which endangers civilian life and which prevents us from fulfilling our humanitarian responsibilities.


III. UNITED NATIONS SEMINAR ON ASSISTANCE TO THE
PALESTINIAN PEOPLE CONVENES IN DOHA

The United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People was held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in Doha on 5 and 6 February 2007. The Seminar constituted three panels that discussed the socio-economic and humanitarian emergency in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; the international response to the needs of the Palestinian people; and creating conditions for Palestinian economic recovery. The Seminar was attended by representatives of 51 Governments, 3 intergovernmental organizations, Palestine, 11 United Nations entities, 10 civil society organizations, as well as 117 representatives of regional and local media outlets. Presentations were made by 13 experts, including Palestinians and Israelis. The following is the statement of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane on 5 February 2007 (SG/SM/10868, GA/PAL/1033):

It is a pleasure to send greetings to the participants in this United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

I am keenly aware that I have taken up my duties as Secretary-General during a very troubled period for the Middle East, and in particular for efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent days alone, we have seen an appalling terrorist attack in Eilat and fratricidal fighting among Palestinians.

Notwithstanding this violence, what has been a rather dark political landscape, has been brightened somewhat by a number of recent developments. Last Friday, the Quartet agreed on the need to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to re-energize its own efforts. Direct dialogue has resumed between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and the understandings between them have begun to be implemented. It is vital to build on these steps with a credible political process that is supported by the world community. We must all focus on resolving the conflict and on improving the socio-economic situation, not merely managing its inevitable crises.

Both sides will measure any progress by its impact on their daily lives and by its ability to propel the parties towards an end to their conflict through a two-State solution. Without bold steps to guarantee security of the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations and without tangible measures that will enable the Palestinians to lead a normal economic and social life, the political process will not succeed.

That is why I am very alarmed by the precarious state of the Palestinian economy and the serious humanitarian emergency in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israeli military operations, restrictions on movement, border closures and the withholding of large parts of Palestinian tax revenues - which make up almost half of all Palestinian revenue - continue to have a devastating effect. Continued settlement activity, as well as barrier construction despite the provisions of international law, further complicate Palestinian life, as well as efforts to achieve a two-State solution. Internal Palestinian tensions are further compounding an already dismal situation.

Israel’s recent release of some of the withheld tax revenues was a welcome step, and I urge Israel to take further steps in this direction without delay. Equally important will be the lifting of all restrictions on the movement of goods and people, in order to breathe life into the Palestinian economy. Recent improvements at the Karni crossing are, again, a good first step in the right direction.

The Palestinians, for their part, must take firm steps to cease rocket fire and other indiscriminate attacks against Israeli civilians. For that to happen, it will be essential for the Palestinians to resolve their internal differences by peaceful means and seek national unity.

A concerted effort by the international community, including donor countries, will be crucial. The United Nations has substantially increased its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, but this, by itself, cannot offset the continuing deterioration of the situation. I appeal to all international donors to be generous and step up their efforts at delivering emergency and other forms of assistance to the Palestinians people. The various United Nations entities on the ground will, at the same time, continue to do their important work in order to alleviate hardships for the Palestinian population.

For my part, I am determined to work closely with the parties, with regional partners and with my colleagues in the Quartet to revive the peace process as a matter of urgency. Only a permanent political settlement, which ends the occupation, can provide a sustainable solution to the economic and humanitarian problems of the Palestinian people and lasting security for Israel. I look forward to working with you to realize the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Please accept my best wishes for a successful seminar.


IV. SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES ANNOUNCEMENT IN MECCA
OF AGREEMENT ON PALESTINIAN NATIONAL
UNITY GOVERNMENT

The following statement was issued on 8 February 2007 by the Spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (SG/SM/10874-PAL/2069):

The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement, in Mecca, of an agreement on a Palestinian national unity government, and commends the initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to help bring about this very important step forward. He hopes that this agreement will curb the violence, creating a better future for the Palestinian people.

The Secretary-General looks forward to discussing the way ahead with the parties and regional and Quartet partners.


V. DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL,
SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION VOICES ALARM
OVER RESUMPTION OF WORKS AT HOLY SITE
In the following press release (N°2007-10) dated 8 February 2007, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expressed his deep concern over the work initiated by the Israeli authorities on the site of the Old City of Jerusalem, which is protected by the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). By virtue of this Convention, the site is inscribed on the World Heritage List and on the List of World Heritage in Danger:

The Director-General has written to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in order to ensure that the work undertaken - the plans of which have not been forwarded to UNESCO - does not, in any way, undermine the outstanding universal value of the Old City of Jerusalem. In particular, he recalled the decision reached by the World Heritage Committee in 2006 at its last session in Vilnius (Lithuania), in which the Committee declared its "concern as to the obstacles and practices, such as archaeological excavations or new constructions, which could alter the outstanding universal value of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem, including its urban and social fabric as well as its visual integrity" and requested "the Israeli authorities to provide to the World Heritage Centre all relevant information concerning the new buildings planned in and around the Western Wall Plaza, including the plans for the reconstruction of the access leading to the al-Haram ash-Sharîf".

The distinctive character of the Old City of Jerusalem derives, in particular, from the close relationship between the historical and religious buildings and the peoples living with them. The Director-General added that interfering with the delicate balance among the symbols of the three monotheistic religions would entail running the risk of undermining the respect for sacred beliefs.

For this reason, the Director-General is launching a vigorous appeal to all people of good will to cease any action that could lead to tensions, whose magnitude can not be foreseen at this time. The wisest course would be to suspend any action that could endanger the spirit of mutual respect until such time as the will to dialogue prevails once again.
VI. THE UNITED NATIONS WORKS AGENCY FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES
IN THE NEAR EAST RESUMES FULL OPERATIONS IN
THE GAZA STRIP
The following press release (No. HQ/02/2007) was issued by UNRWA on 8 February 2007:

The UNRWA humanitarian operations in Gaza, which had been interrupted during recent inter - factional fighting, were restored to full operation on Tuesday, 6 February.

UNRWA headquarters and field offices, as well as 83 schools and food distribution center in Beach Camp, were forced to close during the recent violence. Closing UNRWA installations and facilities was a last resort for the Agency; the situation had simply become too dangerous for its staff and for the thousands of children in its schools.

In a meeting with head teachers from the worst-affected schools in Gaza City, the UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza, John Ging, delivered a clear message of reassurance of UNRWA’s commitment to continue with the delivery of humanitarian services in spite of the new and dangerous challenges faced by the Agency.

“We have to make up the time these children lost in school days, and I assure the wider refugee population in Gaza that through the bravery and dedication of our staff, UNRWA will continue to deliver services as long as it is possible to ensure a measure of safety for our staff. Our services are vital: 860,000 refugees depend on our food assistance, one million depend on our health services and we have 195,000 children in our schools.”

Ging added: “We are all hoping that the political leaders meeting in Mecca will have the courage and wisdom to find solutions to avoid a return to the violence of the past days”.


VII. ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE TRANSMITS
STATEMENT TO THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) transmitted to the Secretary-General a statement issued by the OIC Group on 8 February 2007 concerning the grave situation in occupied East Jerusalem. The statement was transmitted under cover of a letter dated 9 February 2006 from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan addressed to the Secretary-General (see A/61/736, annex). The text of the statement is reproduced below:

Statement issued by the Ambassadorial Level Meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Group to the United Nations on 8 February 2007

The OIC Group at the United Nations in New York met on 8 February 2007, at the Ambassadorial level, to consider the grave situation in occupied East Jerusalem, as a result of Israeli aggression against the Holy City and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and issued the following statement:

The OIC Group at the United Nations in new York expresses its strong condemnation of Israel’s heinous aggression against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy City of Al-Quds Al-Shareef by demolishing a historic road connecting Bab Al-Maghariba with the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, in addition to two rooms adjacent to Al-Buraq Wall. The OIC Group also condemns Israel’s continued excavation works beneath the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, undermining its foundations and threatening it with collapse. The OIC Group considers these acts and measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, a provocation to the feelings and sentiments of more than one billion Muslims in the world. The OIC Group denounces Israel’s continued policy in denying Palestinian worshippers access to their religious sites.

The OIC Group stresses that these Israeli provocative actions are not the first of their kind. Since 1968, the Security Council has adopted 16 resolutions, particularly resolution 465 (1980), and has repeatedly declared that measures and arrangements taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which aim at changing the legal status, demographic composition and character of the City of Al-Quds Al-Shareef are null and void and without any legal validity whatsoever, Further more, the Security Council has repeatedly reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to all the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including East Jerusalem.

The OIC Group stresses that Israel, the occupying Power, by escalating its aggression against Al-Quds Al-Shareef, and creating new facts on the ground, raises doubts over its seriousness to resume the peace process which aims at achieving a just settlement of the Palestinian question, seriously threatens all efforts exerted to revive the political process, and aborts any possibility for negotiations on the final status issues, particularly the issue of Al-Quds Al-Shareef.

The OIC Group, reaffirming the centrality of the cause of Al-Quds Al-Shareef for the whole Islamic Ummah, affirms the firm position of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, for which the cause of Palestine and Al-Quds Al-Shareef was the raison d’être, on the preservation of the Arab and holy characters of the City of Al-Quds Al-Shareef.

The OIC Group, emphasizing the need to prevent further escalation in the situation in the region, calls upon the Security Council, as the body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, to take immediate and urgent action in order to bring an end to Israeli intransigence and violations against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds Al-Shareef, and to guarantee Israel’s respect for the Council’s resolutions and for international law, particularly international humanitarian law.

VIII. QUARTET PRNCIPALS ISSUE STATEMENT ON AGREEMENT TO
FORM PALESTINIAN NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT
The following statement was issued on 9 February 2007 by the Quartet principals (SG/2123,PAL/2070) :

The Quartet Principals - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner -- discussed by telephone today the situation in the Middle East.

The Quartet welcomed the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in reaching the agreement to form a Palestinian national unity government. The Quartet expressed hope that the desired calm would prevail.

While awaiting formation of the new Palestinian government, the Quartet reaffirmed its statement of 2 February regarding its support for a Palestinian government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map.

Quartet members will meet on 21 February in Berlin to continue their consideration of these developments, and to review formation and implementation of the agreement on the government. They welcomed the upcoming 19 February trilateral meeting between United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Quartet will discuss the way ahead at the 21 February meeting.


IX. SPECIAL COORDINATOR FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL

On 13 February 2007, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Alvaro de Soto, briefed the Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” The following are excerpts from his briefing (S/PV.5629):

When the Quartet met recently in Washington, it underscored the critical need to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Last week, a very important step forward was taken in the cause of stability and unity among Palestinians with the agreement to form a national unity Government, reached in Mecca. Next week, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert are scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the first Israeli-Palestinian discussions on the political horizon of the peace process in six years. The Quartet will meet again on 21 February in Berlin.

A newly active Quartet, a more closely involved Arab world, a Palestinian national unity Government and the beginning of political dialogue between the parties have, when taken together, the potential to help restore calm and re-energize efforts to achieve a two-State solution. However, as violence and tension during the past few weeks attest, many immediate and longer-term dangers and challenges to stability and peace will have to be overcome.



The process of forming a new Palestinian Government as such has yet to begin. Some names of ministers were agreed upon in Mecca, including the important ministries of foreign affairs and finance, which will be occupied by independents well known to the international community, but other posts, including the key position of interior minister, are still to be finalized. The agreement incorporates the text of the commissioning letter that President Abbas would send to Ismail Haniya, which would initiate the process of Government formation. The letter calls upon him “to respect the agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization”.



I cite those references because they show the potential of the agreement reached in Mecca. I use the word “potential” advisedly because the agreement has other aspects that also need to be examined, has yet to be implemented and has not been the subject of full discussion among Quartet partners. As they indicated in a statement on 9 February, Quartet principals hope that the desired calm would prevail as a result of the agreement. They are awaiting the formation of the new Palestinian Government and have reaffirmed their support for a Government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map.



Quartet partners are determined to give active follow-up to that and any subsequent trilateral meetings, as well as to the continued efforts being pursued bilaterally between Israel and the Palestinians. They intend to remain closely engaged with each other and regional partners in an effort to move the parties towards meaningful negotiations.

While we have reason to sound more hopeful today than we have been in previous briefings, no one should underestimate the enormousness of the tasks that would face any new Palestinian Government or the many difficulties in the way of fruitful discussions between Israel and the Palestinians.



It is equally important to calm Israeli-Palestinian violence, which has been deeply concerning in the past few weeks. In Eilat, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed three Israelis in an atrocity condemned around the world. At least 36 rockets have been fired from Gaza since 25 January. Israel has shown commendable restraint in the face of those unjustified attacks from Gaza. However, the number of Israel Defence Force (IDF) search-and-detention campaigns in the West Bank has jumped by 58 per cent since the start of 2007, while armed and unarmed clashes between Palestinians and the IDF in the West Bank have risen by 88 per cent. The IDF must, when carrying out operations involving searches and detentions, adhere strictly to all international legal obligations, including human rights obligations. This year 19 Palestinians, including 5 children, have been killed by the IDF, and 72 have been injured.

We are also deeply concerned about continuing tensions over Israel’s construction work on a new walkway to restore a broken bridge leading to the Mughrabi Gate of the Haram al-Sharif - or Temple Mount - compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, and accompanying archeological digging. Israel says its work is purely for safety and access reasons, but there has been a strong reaction in many quarters of the Arab and Muslim worlds. The Israeli Defence Minister has also indicated that proceeding with the work posed a security risk. That prediction seems to have been borne out late last week, when clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the site and in other places in Jerusalem. While the Cabinet approved continuation of the work on Sunday, the Mayor of Jerusalem has suspended construction, but not excavation, pending a new zoning plan that would involve public consultation.

A second set of challenges, also noted by the Quartet on 2 February, relates to preserving and building the capacity of institutions of Palestinian governance, as well as developing the Palestinian economy. The economy cannot be developed without major steps from both parties to implement all aspects of the Agreement on Movement and Access. Although there have been some improvements this year, the implementation of the Agreement remains very patchy. Between 1 January and 10 February 2007, exports through the Karni crossing, which is the primary transit point for goods into and out of Gaza, reached approximately 46 trucks per day, a four-fold increase in the number of truckloads exported in November 2006 but still only 11 per cent of the target set by the Agreement.

Other aspects of the Agreement remain completely stalled. The effects of falling so far short of the Agreement’s targets are being seen: factories are closing, farmers are not investing in export crops and labour markets have contracted. Today, 80 per cent of Gaza residents rely, at least to some extent, on food aid. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, closures now stand at 529, an increase of 25 per cent over last year, despite commitments made at the meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas in December. Without greater movement and access, trade will continue to drop, and reliance on aid will continue to increase.

Palestinian institutions - including schools, hospitals and ministries - have been badly harmed over the past 12 months. The extended strike over the non-payment of salaries has also taken its toll. The financial management system of the Palestinian Authority has been degraded, with consequent weakening of transparent reporting on fiscal operations. The security sector remains oversized, factionalized, unevenly trained and under split command. The fiscal crisis of the Palestinian Authority is severe. Any new Government will face a budget deficit of about 30 per cent of gross domestic product, unless the currently unsustainable fiscal position is addressed - which would require reducing Palestinian institutions - including schools, hospitals and ministries - have been badly harmed over the past 12 months. The extended strike over the non-payment of salaries has also taken its toll. The financial management system of the Palestinian Authority has been degraded, with consequent weakening of transparent reporting on fiscal operations. The security sector remains oversized, factionalized, unevenly trained and under split command.



During the past year the programme of the current Palestinian Authority Government hampered the ability of donors to help to address those issues. Interventions have largely been through parallel mechanisms, which have gradually undermined the very institutions intended to serve as the foundation of a future Palestinian State. To facilitate the recovery of those institutions, resumption of direct support and more holistic approaches to both development and institutional reform are needed. We hope that the new Palestinian Authority Government’s programme will facilitate a return to that approach.

A third set of challenges relates to the continued lack of any positive Israeli action to remove settlement outposts and the continued settlement activity and barrier construction on occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank despite the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. It is vital that action is taken to ensure that final status issues are not prejudiced by the creation of facts on the ground.



The Mecca agreement signals a rejection by Palestinians of internal violence to resolve their differences. It marks a renewed commitment by the Arab world to supporting Palestinian unity and moderation. We hope that it will lead to a Government that donors can support for three reasons: first, because only if the security forces work cohesively, rather than facing off in the streets, can the terrible violence in the occupied Palestinian territory be seriously tackled and security sector reform be durable. That is as vital for Israel as it is for Palestinians. Secondly, further delay in supporting Palestinian institutions and reviving economic life could have devastating and long-term consequences. Thirdly, while negotiations with Israel remain the province of the Palestine Liberation Organization and in the hands of President Abbas, the institutions of the Palestinian Authority also have responsibilities to ensure that Palestinian obligations are met under existing agreements.

We are therefore watching developments carefully to see how the Mecca agreement is implemented in the coming period and what actions are taken by the parties to sustain the new dynamic. Action by Israel to address the longstanding issue of prisoners and by the Palestinian side to secure release of the Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza will be crucial to achieving lasting progress.

We also look forward to next week’s trilateral meeting. Excessive expectations should not be placed on one such meeting, but we hope that it will be the beginning of a genuine dialogue leading to negotiations that can define the end-goal for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and clarify the path to achieving it. Certainly, all Quartet partners are determined to work together in supporting such an effort.

Our goal is clear: an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the achievement of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace with Israel. The overall goal of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbours must not be neglected. We must act with the right mixture of firmness and flexibility with all parties to ensure that they move decisively down this path.


X. QUARTET PRINCIPALS ISSUE STATEMENT ON THE AGREEMENT
REACHED IN MECCA


The following statement by the Quartet principals was issued on 21 February 2007 in Berlin (SG/2124):

The Quartet principals - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner -- met today in Berlin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

Secretary Rice reported on her recent 18 February meetings with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, the 19 February trilateral and United States efforts to facilitate discussions between the parties. The Quartet welcomed these efforts and expressed the hope that the result-oriented dialogue initiated between Israeli and Palestinian leaders will continue in the framework of a renewed political process, with the aim of defining more clearly the political horizon and launching meaningful negotiations. The Quartet reaffirmed its determination to promote such a process, in cooperation with the parties and other regional partners. The Quartet urged the parties to refrain from measures that prejudge issues to be resolved in negotiations.

The Quartet reaffirmed its statements regarding its support for a Palestinian Government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Road Map, and encouraged progress in this direction.

The Quartet discussed efforts under way for a Palestinian national unity Government, pursuant to the agreement reached in Mecca on 8 February. The Quartet expressed its appreciation for the role of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the cessation of violence among Palestinians.

The Quartet concluded with a discussion of possible further steps by the international community in the context of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

It welcomed preliminary ideas put forward by the European Commission to meet the needs to better coordinate and mobilize international assistance in support of the political process and to meet the needs of the Palestinian people.

The Quartet reaffirmed its commitment to meet regularly and asked envoys to monitor developments and actions taken by the parties and to discuss the way ahead. It was agreed to schedule a meeting in the region soon.


XI. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME ISSUES REPORT ON COMPREHENSIVE
FOOD SECURITY AND VULNERABILITY ANALYSIS FOR THE
WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP
The World Food Programme on 21 February 2007 issued a report entitled “Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, West Bank and Gaza Strip”. The conclusions of the report are reproduced below:

3.4 Conclusions

As documented in the current assessment, thus far, physical and economic constraints to food trade do not significantly affect food availability, although they impact food prices. In fact, food insecurity in West Bank and Gaza Strip is mainly determined by declining socio-economic conditions of Palestinian households. Nevertheless, the unimpeded closure regime is leading to the fragmentation of markets and economic isolation with severe consequences on the livelihood resilience of communities.

The food security profiles described in this report place one-third of the population in a situation where they either rely on assistance or compromise their food security status. However, one third of the population is food secure. This leaves the last third exposed to various factors and leaves them vulnerable to food insecurity.

The severe strain on the socio-economic fabric of Palestinian society is exacerbated by concomitant developments in 2006, including:

• the increasingly restrictive Israeli closure policy, including restrictions on the movement of people and goods, access to land and water resources such as the fertile and (food security) strategic “seam zone” and the Jordan Valley;

• the process of disempowerment of the Palestinian Authority or institutional “dissolution” since February 2006, adding to the pre-existing discrimination against Hamas-led municipalities;

• the Palestinian Authority fiscal crisis affecting service rendering capacity (e.g., health and education) and salaries to approximately one quarter of the Palestinian population who are dependant on Palestinian Authority employees’ income;

• the economic recession affecting all industries, cash flow and liquidity, consumers’ purchasing power and food trade and production - with the additional threat of a new Avian Flu outbreak;

• restrictive aid policies, with massive under-funding of social safety nets, private sector and, livelihood support programmes; and,

• the closure of Gaza Strip and the destruction of productive assets (especially in the agricultural sector) and civil infrastructure since June 2006.

The most visible impact on food security includes expanding and deepening the gap between (i) households’ declining income and (ii) ideal food consumption combined with the following structural changes in food security determinants:
• loss of livelihood entitlements including job opportunities in Israel, access to land and water resources, freedom of trade, fast growing unemployment in both the public and private sectors due to the Palestinian Authority fiscal crisis, economic recession, and debt cycle and banking restrictions that are affecting all industries and trades;

• extreme vulnerability of most residents in the Gaza Strip caused by the high volatility of food supply pipelines (including the missing link with the West Bank), the economic and financial crises and the disruption of basic services and utilities. Gazans’ vulnerability is partly offset by large coverage of UNRWA and other agencies’ assistance;

• fragmentation of food systems and markets in the West Bank with structural changes in the labour markets and livelihood systems, as well as in food production and trade patterns;

• declining social and human capital relating to psycho-social stress, shortcomings in the education and health systems, weakening social solidarity networks, and weakening social fabric overall. While many agencies operate social security and safety net programmes for the poorest and socially marginal, the lack of institutionalized coordination hinders achievement of the goal of overall social equity.

Since February 2006 new population groups became food insecure (or more food insecure) in addition to the pre-existing food insecure groups. For example, families supported by Palestinian Authority employees are drastically affected by the transitory suspension of salary payments. This is partially offset by allowances received through the Office of the President that are sourced from Temporary International Mechanism and Arab donors.

It should be noted that ongoing socio-economic decline and overall de-institutionalization processes are expected to further impact food security in the coming months, in particular as its structural elements (e.g., household livelihoods, trades and industries, aid coordination and streamlining), remain unaddressed.

Finally, while the percentage of food insecure and vulnerable people remains at the same levels, the absolute number of people in need of assistance to meet their food requirements in a sustainable way grows as the population increases. However, the large scale assistance received by Palestinians in different modalities and through different channels suggests that the rations/packages should be designed and calibrated to fill the actual consumption gap. In particular, the assistance should be determined on the basis of the difference between the desired overall consumption (e.g., the relative poverty line of USD 2.1 per person per day adjusted by the household size and composition as per the Ministry of Social Affairs, Palestinian Authority Social Safety Nets Reform Programme) and the actual level of access to essential needs, which include food as a sub-component of the basic needs. Furthermore, the diverse range of eligibility and targeting criteria utilised by the humanitarian actors and other agencies should be reviewed in light of social equity.


XII. THE UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL
ORGANIZATION SENDS TECHNICAL MISSION TO ASSESS THE
WORK ON THE ACCESS TO THE AL-HARAM AL-SHARIF
IN JERUSALEM

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Koïchiro Matsuura, on 23 February 2007 requested a technical mission to proceed to the Old City of Jerusalem, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and on the World Heritage in Danger List, to carry out a technical assessment of the works on the access to the al-Haram al-Sharif. The following press release was issued by UNESCO on the same date:

Following extensive consultations with all the parties concerned, the Director-General requested the mission to leave as soon as possible, probably early next week. It will be led by the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Francesco Bandarin, and include the Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, Mounir Bouchenaki; the President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, Michael Petzel; and Véronique Dauge of the World Heritage Centre.

"I believe that such a mission constitutes the most appropriate response to the present situation," Mr. Matsuura said, "and could also be a means of helping to alleviate tensions and restore a climate of confidence favourable to the dialogue that we all wish for."

Upon its return, the mission will report to the Director-General.


XIII. OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR
HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTS ON THE ISSUE OF PALESTINIAN
PREGNANT WOMEN GIVING BIRTH AT
ISRAELI CHECKPOINTS

On 23 February 2007, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted the report on the current issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/7 of 14 April 2005 and the Human Rights Council decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, requesting the High Commissioner to “continue with the fulfillment of her activities, in accordance with all previous decisions adopted by the Commission on Human Rights and to update the relevant reports and studies”. The text of the report is reproduced below (A/HRC/4/57):

1. The Human Rights Council, in its decision 2/102 of 6 October 2006, requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to “continue with the fulfillment of her activities, in accordance with all previous decisions adopted by the Commission on Human Rights and to update the relevant reports and studies”. On the current issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, a report was submitted by the High Commissioner to the sixtieth session of the General Assembly (see A/60/324) pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/7 of 14 April 2005. The information in the report remains relevant and has been complemented by a note submitted by the Secretariat to the Commission on Human Rights at its sixty-second session (E/CN.4/2006/28). The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) understands decision 2/102 as preserving the previous annual reporting cycle in respect of the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, until otherwise decided by the Council. The current report to the Human Rights Council accordingly addresses developments in respect of this issue since the last report submitted to the Commission on Human Rights.

2. On 9 January 2007, the Secretary-General addressed notes verbales to the Permanent Mission of Israel and to the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in which he indicated that he would appreciate receiving any comments or observations that they might wish to submit following Commission resolution 2005/7, the subsequent report submitted by the High Commissioner to the General Assembly at its sixtieth session, and the note submitted by the Secretariat to the Commission on Human Rights at its sixty-second session on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints.

3. On 6 February 2007, OHCHR received a report from the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine. This report was received in Arabic and the following information is based on an unofficial translation, compiled by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, indicating that since the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000, Israel had intensified its military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory through obstacles and checkpoints at the entry of Palestinian cities and villages, impeding seriously the mobility of civilians. These restrictions imposed on the liberty of movement of Palestinian people were perceived as a form of collective punishment and constitute a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War of 12 August 1949, which forbids collective penalties and intimidation measures, and of article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees to everyone the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his/her residence. The Israeli policy of segregation led to the splitting of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively into 3 and 43 isolated areas or units.

4. According to the Information Health Centre of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, from 2000 to 2006, 69 cases of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints had been recorded with peaks reached in 2001 (18 cases), in 2002 (24 cases), in 2003 (8 cases) and in 2004 (9 cases). Of these, 45 took place in the West Bank (out of which 11 cases occurred in Nablus and 9 cases in Ramallah), while 14 cases were registered in Gaza. In 2005, only three cases were reported in the West Bank and Gaza, while two cases occurred in the West Bank and none in Gaza in 2006.

5. As a result of the checkpoints, 10 per cent of pregnant women who wished to give birth in a hospital had been delayed on the road between two to four hours before reaching health facilities, while 6 per cent of them had spent more than four hours for the same journey. Before the intifada, the average time to reach health facilities was 15 to 30 minutes. These hazardous conditions were mainly attributed to impediments faced by ambulances and medical teams when trying to transport women in labour through checkpoints, and to inspections or attacks perpetrated by Israeli forces against ambulances and their patients.

6. According to the figures provided in the same report, 35 newborn babies had died at checkpoints as their mothers did not receive the urgent care required by their condition and five women lost their lives while giving birth. In addition, six pregnant women had been injured at checkpoints as a result of beating, shooting and use of toxic gas by Israeli soldiers. Mention was made of the case of a pregnant woman who had been targeted in her ninth month of pregnancy at a checkpoint by Israeli military, while she was accompanied by her husband and her father. The woman received a wound in her shoulder and the father was injured in the chest; her husband, however, died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. Most pregnant women belonged to the age groups 21-25 (17 cases), 26-30 (16 cases), 31-35 (15 cases), and 36-40 (9 cases). The fear of such hardships led a significant number of Palestinian pregnant women to choose to give birth at home (with an increase by 8.2 per cent of home deliveries).

7. At the time of preparation of the present report, no reply has been received from the Permanent Mission of Israel.

8. OHCHR also addressed letters dated 9 January 2007 to the following United Nations entities and specialized agencies represented in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNSCO, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), UNRWA, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), WFP and the World Health Organization (WHO).

9. Replies were received in late January and early February 2007 from UNSCO, UNRWA transmitting statistics from WHO and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, as well as from UNICEF, UNIFEM and UNFPA. UNSCO indicated that it had no specific contribution to make on the subject. UNRWA mentioned that it did not keep statistics on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women at Israeli checkpoints and that the field staff consulted had no direct knowledge of any cases in 2005 or 2006. The two tables of figures transmitted by WHO are based on the statistics provided by the Information Health Centre of the Palestinian Ministry of Health (see para. 4 above). The information given by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society noted 10 cases of deliveries in ambulances between January and May 2005 at the El-Toufah checkpoint in the Gaza Strip, which was later dismantled by Israeli forces when they withdrew from Gaza. All the deliveries occurred within delays ranging from one and a half hours to two hours.

10. UNICEF indicated that it had no additional comments or observations, except that it remained determined to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Palestinian women and their children, in particular unobstructed and timely access to health facilities.

11. UNIFEM noted that other United Nations agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had already reported comprehensively on the issue of Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints, and focused its contribution on the question of the treatment of pregnant Palestinian female prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centres.

12. UNFPA expressed deep concern about recent reports of delays at Israeli checkpoints and women in labour, and reiterated the universal right of pregnant women to have access to health care, including delivery, in complex humanitarian situations such as in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Delays of pregnant women at checkpoints and other blockades had resulted in forced roadside births, and even in the death of some women (68 women, according to Palestinian Ministry of Health statistical reports have in the last six years given birth at a checkpoint, with 34 miscarriages) and infants. There is one unit of difference vis-à-vis the statistics submitted by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine which mention 69 pregnant women delayed at checkpoints and 35 newborn babies. According to 2006 Ministry of Health statistics, there were currently an estimated 117,000 pregnant women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including around 18,000 who suffered from difficult pregnancy and birth due to a lack of appropriate and timely antenatal, delivery and post-natal care. In fact, inadequate medical care during pregnancy was the third cause of mortality among Palestinian women of reproductive age.

13. UNFPA thus urged that civilians with urgent needs should have access to health facilities, and that humanitarian organizations be allowed to work freely to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, especially women and children. In this regard, UNFPA had been helping Palestinian women to avoid distress, including from delays at checkpoints. Key interventions included training of health personnel in emergency obstetric care; equipping trained health-care personnel with delivery kits to enable them to provide more effective service delivery in their respective communities; facilitation of the formation of community support teams to assist health providers and to raise community awareness on the availability of delivery services; and procurement of medications and supplies to ensure the continuity of maternal services.

14. The latest Israeli military incursions into the Gaza Strip, which started on 28 June 2006, had compounded the suffering of the Palestinian population in general and women and young people in particular. General damage to infrastructure, power grids and communication services jeopardized provision of adequate health services. UNFPA was concerned about the negative impact of such damage on maternal outcome, including death. In Gaza, the inability to refer properly emergency cases outside of the Strip had been observed as a factor related to maternal death in a recent Ministry of Health descriptive study supported by UNFPA (Maternal Death Study, Ministry of Health, December 2006).

15. Through its network with the Ministry of Health and civil society organizations in Palestine, UNFPA continued to work with its partners on the provision of essential emergency services and supplies, including the restoration of health facilities, as well as psychosocial and clinical services. UNFPA also raised the issue that any birth at a checkpoint or inability to refer a pregnant woman as a result of a military barrier that resulted in birth, death or disability was a breach of human and reproductive rights.


XIV. SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES THE OPENING OF THE
2007 SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE
OF THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS OF THE
PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made the following remarks at the opening of the 2007 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in New York, on 27 February (SG/SM/10892, GA/PAL/1039):

Allow me to congratulate you and your colleagues in the Bureau on your unanimous election to the leadership of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

As we know only too well, the path to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been filled with obstacles, frustration and tragedy. Over the years, many thousands of innocent lives have been lost or shattered. Hope has been episodic at best. Far more often, despair has been the norm.

The Palestinian people still yearn for the freedom and dignity denied them for decades. The Israeli people yearn for long-term security. Neither can achieve their legitimate demands without a settlement of the conflict. Today, we are at a critical juncture in efforts to move beyond crisis management and renew efforts toward genuine conflict resolution.

The challenges to progress are enormous. Israeli military operations, severe movement restrictions, the withholding of Palestinian revenues and socio-economic decline have precipitated a humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and exacted a heavy price, particularly on the most vulnerable members of society. Continued settlement activity and construction of the Israeli barrier further erode the quality of Palestinian life and undermine efforts to achieve a viable Palestinian State.

At the same time, continued rocket attacks and another suicide attacks targeting Israeli civilians prolong the feeling of insecurity of Israelis. This has resulted, in turn, in tighter restrictions for Palestinians. Moreover, the withdrawal of much direct donor support from the Palestinian Authority Government, in light of its lack of clear commitment to basic principles of the peace process, has debilitated those Palestinian institutions that have been bypassed.

Indeed, nearly all the developments of 2006 took us further from the goal shared by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians: two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The goal in 2007 must be to reverse this trend. As we try to do so, we have some important blocks on which to build.

I am encouraged, for example, by the recent agreement on a Palestinian national unity Government reached in Mecca. That agreement has helped calm down the internal Palestinian situation. It also marked an intensification of Arab efforts to promote calm and moderation in the region. I thank the leaders involved, in particular His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who exerted tremendous energy to achieve this very important step.

Both Palestinians and the wider regional and international community are keen to see this agreement implemented in a positive manner. I hope that a national unity Government will take positions and actions that help to facilitate renewed international support.

I am also encouraged by the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert met in December to discuss practical steps to ease tensions. I strongly urge them to continue to pursue in partnership.

And last week, United States Secretary of State Rice hosted talks with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, signalling the active engagement of the United States in working with the parties to address the fundamental issues of the conflict.

These steps have been buttressed by the renewed engagement of the Quartet, which has met twice in the last month, and intends to meet again in the region before long. We are seeking to combine our efforts to clarify the political horizon, and to ensure that a process of dialogue develops that leads to negotiations on how to bring forward a comprehensive settlement. I would hope to back this up with a strong international assistance effort that focuses on strengthening and preserving the Palestinian institutions that must form the basis of a Palestinian State.

I am grateful to donor countries that have increased aid for the economic, social and humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.

I commend the men and women in United Nations entities, as well as their partners in Government and civil society, who perform their mission on the ground under difficult and, at times, dangerous conditions, particularly in Gaza.

And I urge all of us to take advantage of the political opportunities at hand. If we do so, with creativity and persistence, and the right mix of firmness and flexibility, we can find the path that has eluded us for so long, and arrive at our commonly hoped for destination of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on an end to the 1967 occupation and the creation of an independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace with Israel.


XV. WORLD BANK ISSUES REVIEW ON PUBLIC EXPENDITURE IN THE
WEST BANK AND GAZA STRIP

The World Bank, on 28 February 2007, issued Volume 2 of the Public Expenditure Review of the West Bank and Gaza Strip entitled “From Crisis to Greater Fiscal Independence” (Report No. 38207-WBG). The conclusions and recommendations are reproduced below:

8. Conclusions and recommendations

The Palestinian Authority and its social line ministries are operating in an extremely difficult environment. Resources are at best uncertain and are frequently nonexistent. Some services are provided and some benefits are sporadically distributed, though civil servants are still not receiving regular salary payments. Within this uncertain environment, it is all the more important to ensure that the limited resources are well used, realizing available efficiency gains through a combination of greater programme and institutional coordination, better policy and programme planning and improved targeting of large programmes, so that benefits reach the poorest and most vulnerable. Several specific recommendations emerging from the discussion in this chapter are incorporated into box 7.1 below. Many of the recommendations place an equal responsibility on donors, NGOs and the Palestinian Authority for success. All will require strong leadership and accountability from the Palestinian Authority.

Box 7.1: social policy and safety nets

General reform initiatives:

Strengthen programme coordination. The Palestinian Authority and donors often operate programmes independently of one another with little exchange of information either at the policy or operational levels. Even within the Palestinian Authority, some line ministries are largely unaware of other ministries’ programmes with similar aims. At a minimum, regular forums for information exchange should be set up by the Ministry of Planning, such as monthly policy meetings, where attendance by line ministries and donors is mandatory.

Reduce potential for overlapping programmes and beneficiaries. Owing in part to the lack of coordination between providers, there are many interventions purporting to reach the same or very similar populations with similar benefits. A few examples highlighted in the chapter include:

• The Ministry of Social Affairs, Palestinian Authority, provides vocational training for dropouts and young adults, while the Ministry of Labour, Palestinian Authority, also provides vocational training for unemployed adults.

• The Ministry of Social Affairs provides cash transfers to the needy through the Social Hardship Case programme, the UNRWA provides similar benefits to the refugee population through its Social Hardship Case programme and the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainee Affairs provides a separate transfer programme for those detained in Israel and their families.

• Both UNRWA and WFP provide similar packages of in-kind food rations to similar populations, differing primarily only in their refugee status.

The development of a strategy for social protection that would identify and clarify the roles of the Palestinian Authority, donors and private sector is highly desirable. This process could lead to a review of the legislative framework governing ministry mandates and new amendments to develop a more streamlined and effective social protection system.

Improve policy planning, budgeting and fiscal management. Social protection line ministries should take a more active role with regard to policy planning and fiscal management. Currently, they see themselves only as implementers of policies developed elsewhere in the Palestinian Authority. Little attention is given to budget planning or to linking expenditures to revenues or transfers. It is frequently difficult to obtain recent budget and expenditure information from ministries, and when it is available it bears little relevance to actual operations. This is partly a reflection of the uncertain revenues that have plagued the Palestinian Authority, but is also a problem with overall fiscal management. Planning units should be developed within the key ministries, Management Information Systems should be upgraded to allow monitoring of programme performance and budget departments should move toward more systematic programmatic budgeting practices.

Develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation strategy. Programmess such as the Special Hardship Case programmes, the Teacher Emergency Package and others should be subject to routine monitoring through an updated Management Information System, and should be part of a strategy of external programme evaluation. Only through rigorous monitoring and evaluation can programmes be improved and effective long term funding decisions taken to enhance fiscal sustainability.

Programme level initiatives:

Reform the pension system. This is a top priority from a fiscal perspective. Implicit debt accumulated from the current civil service schemes are nearly twice current Gross Domestic Product, and even making payments to current recipients requires an ever-larger share of the budget, estimated at nearly 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2005. Fundamental reform is not a short term undertaking. However, an initial step would be to strengthen the administrative capacity of the Gaza Pension Insurance Corporation. It would also include analysing and revising the Unified Pension Law to adjust the parameters of the current public system to ensure long term sustainability, revising the Unified Pension Law, strengthening the Gaza Pension Insurance Corporation and eventually developing an independent and transparent pension institution. Similar reform is needed with regard to the 2003 Social Security Law for private sector workers.

West Bank and Gaza Public Expenditure Review 175

Improve safety net targeting. Preliminary analysis of the Ministry of Social Affairs Social Hardship Case Programme found high leakages of benefits to non-poor individuals. Targeting methods that move away from categorical targeting to more needs-based standards, such as a proxy-means approach, can increase the proportion of benefits that go to the poor. The Social Safety Net Reform Project is developing a pilot proxy-means test which could be considered for wider application across different safety net programmes.

Consider a public workfare programme component. Ministry of Social Affairs and the Palestinian Authority would benefit from considering a traditional self-targeted workfare programme component, perhaps as part of the Teacher Emergency Package, to provide benefits to the able-bodied poor unemployed in a way that does not burden the staff-heavy public sector and does not require a screening mechanism to identify participants. Workfare projects can also be targeted to geographic areas with particularly high unemployment and poverty.


_______________

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter