A Project of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and, United Nations Development Program with the support of DFID
Goal: The objective of the Palestinian Participatory Poverty Assessment Project (PPPA) is to influence government structures and processes at district, sector, and national levels and to produce policy recommendations and plans for poverty eradication.
Established in September 2000, the Palestinian Participatory Poverty Assessment Project (PPPA) is a joint project of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MOPIC), with support from the British Government’s Department of International Development (DFID). Working closely with the National Commission for Poverty Eradication, the project seeks to influence government structures and processes at district, sector, and national levels and to produce policy recommendations and plans for poverty eradication.
There has always been a general recognition that poverty constitutes a problem for Palestinian society, yet that recognition was never based on solid ground because there was never a collective national exercise to really determine the level of poverty in Palestine. In the mid-1990’s, when the UNDP decided to designate poverty eradication as its main priority action, it took the initiative of preparing a project to conduct a poverty mapping exercise in Palestine, with a focus on each of the localities. Prior to this initiative, there was no structure and no reliable data on which to base studies. One of the apparent problems was a lack of a comprehensive definition of poverty, wherein poverty would be viewed not only in the context of income, but also in terms of the social environment. Taking the latter into consideration would provide a holistic and comprehensive view of poverty.
The UNDP began the process of poverty mapping because there was no data to act as a baseline to poverty. The National Poverty Eradication Commission (NPEC) in Palestine was established and a Palestinian Authority counterpart, MOPIC, was identified, given MOPIC’s work through its already existing Program for Poverty Eradication.
After initial meetings, the NPEC and UNDP cooperatively decided that, given the lack of a baseline and data, the best use of UNDP’s contribution would be to conduct a poverty profile in order to determine a poverty line for Palestine. It was envisioned that this profile would act as a baseline for any further research and review of poverty and would also offer a more comprehensive and holistic look at poverty, asserting that poverty is not only a matter of income level, but is also influenced by factors such as health and education. Improvements in those fields can lead to an alleviation of the poverty level, even if the income level remains the same.
Within the proposed profile, the UNDP also wanted to bring to the attention of the public that there are existing local initiatives addressing the issue of poverty in Palestine that need to be reviewed and their performance assessed. For example, the project proposed to look at the Ministry of Social Affairs, UNRWA and the Zakat Committees and determine any existing gaps, locate weaknesses and identify opportunities.
The 1998 Palestine Poverty Report
These issues became the term of reference for the poverty profile and in 1997and 1998 UNDP was able to establish a team of experts that led to the publication of the 1998 Palestinian Poverty Report. The report contained numerous new ideas and provided the first comprehensive look at poverty in Palestine, drawing a poverty map through conducting a family consumption expenditure survey. For the first time, a poverty line was determined and a scientifically based estimate of poverty introduced.
The fact that there are geographical discrepancies in poverty was also introduced and public misconceptions about poverty were proved inaccurate. For example, the report indicated that there was more deep poverty in the Hebron area to the south of the West Bank while the Jenin area to the north of the West Bank is most seriously affected by poverty. The report constituted a strong and scientific document that put an end to speculations and discussions about poverty and provided the UNDP with a baseline from which to work.
Involving the Affected Communities
In order to influence governments, the authority and NGO’s – more planning activities needed to take place and UNDP felt that participation of the poor people in this discussion might provide us with a better insight. The 1998 Poverty Profile was a comprehensive and academic exercise – yet it did not integrate the poor into the process - only extractive surveys and extractive meetings. The notion that an extra step should be taken – the necessity of the integration of the poor into the process – the idea of listening to the poor was surfacing and eventually strengthened the notion that a successful strategy would be to integrate the poor in the process. Given this, potential of success is higher because of the issue of ownership – this project is owned by the community and the solutions are owned by the community.
Partners in the Project
In 1997, the British Government’s Department of International Development (DFID) issued a ‘white paper’ which stated that they decided to identify poverty eradication as the focus of their international aid. As a result of this decision and meetings with DFID representatives, specific actions for joint collaboration were determined between DFID, UNDP, and the Palestinian Authority in the country.
DFID introduced to UNDP the idea of conducting a Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA). Consultants from DFID came and provided UNDP with more insight on the approach, suggesting that PPA might be useful for Palestine as a complement to the 1998 Poverty Report.
The counterpart for the activities is the National Commission for Poverty Eradication, which was formed following the 1998 Poverty Profile and is the main body for poverty in Palestine. Both UNDP and MOPIC are represented in this Commission, with UNDP acting as an observer to the Commission. The Commission is composed of various partners which work in the fields of social and economic development in Palestine and who support the holistic vision of poverty.
The Palestinian Participatory Poverty Assessment Project was developed over a two year period, from the initial idea to the final documents approved by DFID, UNDP and MOPIC. The PPPA is guided by two main principles: community participation, particularly that of the poverty stricken; and poverty eradication, which integrates the view that action must be taken and looks into the causes of poverty as opposed to the treatment or harboring of symptoms.
In utilizing the Participatory Poverty Assessment approach outlined previously, the project stands to benefit from PPAs conducted in other countries. However, the uniqueness of the Palestinian situation – a government that does not have total control over its own resources and essentially remains under occupation – must be considered. This unique situation will influence the findings of the PPA in Palestine.
The main strategy of the project is to identify the concerns of the poor and incorporate their concerns into anti-poverty strategies at the district, sectoral, and ministerial level. Building on the findings of the 1998 report, the project aims to delineate what types of ideas the poor have about their situation, how the service providers deal with their problems, and what sort of suggestions they have to improve service delivery and strategies for the alleviation of poverty.
The project hopes to contribute to the creation of a clear vision for development in Palestine. Until now, there has been no clear vision. Poverty eradication might be that vision.
Part and parcel of the project vision is that Palestinian Authority’s eventual assumption of primary responsibility for the poverty eradication work in Palestine and the institutionalization of all necessary structures. In order to achieve maximum results, there should be complete transparency and partnership with all government ministries, integrating them into the process from the beginning. Eventually advocacy efforts must be exerted so that the government will take the findings of the research into all aspects of their work.
A main structure of the project, in addition to the National Commission and the project management unit, are the District Committees (DC). The DCs are viewed as the main entry point and legitimacy in the society or the locality. They are the key player in developing community action plans. The DCs are composed of PA Ministry representatives in a district as well as active NGOs, CSOs or community based organizations in that locale.
While the DCs are viewed as the main entry point for the project into the community – the legitimacy providers and logistic providers – they are also viewed as a major stakeholder for the future implementation of the findings and as poverty monitoring groups in their respective districts. It is envisioned that the majority of the advocacy and lobbying will be emanating from these groups and the interest and dedication that the members themselves show. The DCs will look into the issue of poverty and the relation of any projects implemented through ministries, take into consideration poverty through the views and perceptions of the poor. As such, the project is investing heavily in building the capacities of the DC members. In particular, DC members will receive training on feedback about poverty, lobbying, advocacy, communication, development and its relation to poverty and how any development projects being implemented have to consider the issue of poverty through the eyes and voices of the poor.
The formulation of the District Committees marks the first time that such a broad-based structure has been trained and activated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The structure, which includes representatives from the private, civil society, and governmental sectors, consists of 16 District Committees, five in Gaza and 11 in the West Bank, and is composed of 140 NGO representatives and 200 Palestinian Authority representatives.
In addition the project seeks trying to influence community based organizations and NGOs on the district level to play a greater role in advocacy and lobbying in favor of action towards poverty eradication. The groups are particularly well-placed to engage in such work given their daily interaction with the community.