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Source: Germany
23 January 2008

"Future for Palestine" initiative launched

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have launched the "Future for Palestine" initiative.This initiative is designed to foster the peace process in the Middle East. It "shows the Palestinian people that we are working to improve their living conditions," said Steinmeier. Launched with funds from the Federal Foreign Office, the initiative has already found support from German businesses, associations and foundations.

The talks between Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Prime Minister Fayyad focused on the Middle East peace process. "Everyone knows how many obstacles still have to be overcome before the peace process arrives at what will hopefully be a happy conclusion," Steinmeier noted. "I do, however, hope that the parties find their way back to the talks even under difficult circumstances, so that by the end of the year the course will be set for a Palestinian state."

The meeting marked the launch of the new initiative, "Future for Palestine".

Initiative "Future for Palestine" launched

The initiative "Future for Palestine" consists of relatively small, visible projects, that will directly benefit the Palestinian people within the coming months.  The time horizon for all activities is the end of 2008.  "Germany supports the peace process politically.  International negotiations are important; donor conferences are important.  But what we need now are also local projects which can be implemented very quickly," Steinmeier stated further.

Support from private sponsors

The initiative has already won the support of various German businesses, associations and foundations. Three projects can be mentioned by way of example.

The Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA), represented by its President, Anton F. Börner, has, as part of its export initiative, identified five types of product that could be exported by the Palestinian territories – handicrafts, textiles, marble and stone, agricultural produce and software. The German business community is willing to promote the export of these products as a contribution to stabilizing the Palestinian economy. The BGA is currently working with various actors in the region to establish technology partnerships in the telecommunications and IT sectors. It has additionally been cooperating with Palestinian food producers since 2007. Following a highly successful pilot project in December 2007, systematically offering more Palestinian arts and crafts for sale, above all at Christmas Markets in Germany, is set to be one of the first new projects. It is designed to support the producers of local handicrafts in Bethlehem.

Software AG will participate in the educational sector. "I am glad that Software AG, too, is in a position to contribute to the "Future for Palestine" project," said CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich. "As part of our University Relations Programme, we will help Palestinian universities improve teaching and research in the software field. IT technologies are a driving force behind growth and innovation, making education in this field a must for economic growth. Improving education is thus a way of creating a perspective for the Palestinian territories, which could in the long term also bring greater stability to the region."

Daimler AG operates a number of "automotive academies" in various towns in the Near and Middle East which are designed to train people for the automotive industry. Daimler is currently investigating how this network of training projects could be enhanced to focus more on job training for young Palestinians as part of the "Future for Palestine" initiative. In addition to using the training academy just opened in Beit Sahour (3 km from Bethlehem) to this end, further automotive academy projects in Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem are being considered.

The Hasso Plattner Institute (headed by Prof. Christoph Meinel), the Körber Foundation (chaired by Christian Wriedt) and the Gerda Henkel Foundation (directed by Michael Hannsler) were also represented at the initiative's launch and will implement their own projects to help improve the future for Palestine.
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