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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: European Union (EU)
20 September 2012

European Union and Palestinian Authority Ministry of Social Affairs Cooperation
to Develop Social Protection Policy in Palestine

Due to the socio-political situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, social protection consisted mainly of disaster relief and ad-hoc measures to provide aid to the most disadvantageous. Since April 2010, the European Union and the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Social Affairs work together to develop a comprehensive, efficient and equitable social protection system that cares for the poorest and most vulnerable of the Palestinians. With the technical and financial support of the EU, the Ministry carried out an ambitious reform programme to ensure effective responses and quality services to all Palestinians in need. The Ministry is working to materialize its own national Social Protection Sector Strategy for 2011 – 2013 which sets four main priorities:

- Reducing poverty levels among the Palestinian population.
-Strengthening the protection, care and empowerment of the vulnerable and marginalised groups.
-Strengthening and expanding a system of social security which includes social insurance schemes (pensions, unemployment, health insurance).
-Development of the regulatory environment, institutional basis and partnerships necessary for a modern system of social protection.

Strategy development: from aid to a rights-based approach

Through the EU programme – for the first time – a comprehensive business strategy covering all core areas of the Ministry’s activities was developed and endorsed by the Ministry in May 2011. The strategy spells out in detail the actions required for the Ministry to fulfil its social protection mandate. The main aspiration of the Palestinian Authority’s Social Protection Sector Strategy is to achieve the transition from the old approach of relief delivery to a modern rights-based approach in social protection. For example, the poverty-based targeting mechanism introduced in June 2010 guarantees that the national cash transfer of social allowances reaches the poorest Palestinian households.

Training of staff: develop professional skills & address new challenges

The EU programme invested in the development of skills and capacities of the Ministry of Social Affairs staff to meet international standards and best practices. Since 2011, two large scale one-year training programmes took place: on social administration & strategic planning as well as on modern social work & service provision. In total 75 staff members followed the courses and now apply their newly-acquired skills to enforce key aspects of the Ministry’s reform plan.

In an effort to address the growing problem of violence against women in the Palestinian society, there was a special focus on the curriculum on social work with families and prevention of domestic violence. The training programme was executed by a team of international experts in social work and Palestinian colleagues from Al Quds University.

Specific attention was placed to the development of management skills through the design of specific modules which covered – inter alia – human resource management, financial management and budgeting, organizational communication. The trainees included both senior and middle-level administrative staff at the central offices but also managerial staff at regional offices and service provision institutions of the Ministry across the West Bank. As part of the training, participants had to apply the knowledge acquired in practice as part of their work at the Ministry.

In addition, training courses on more general skills such as the English language and computer competence took place in both the Ministry’s headquarters and regional offices targeting 48 (language) and 250 (computer) Ministry employees respectively.

The Palestinian Authority poverty-based cash transfer programme

In April 2010, the PA Ministry of Social affairs introduced the reformed Cash Transfer Programme (CTP). The CTP builds on poverty-based targeting modalities - derived from the application of objective “proxy means testing”; that is, households living in extreme poverty are identified and the size of assistance is provided based on their economic and social condition. This reform was supported by the EU and the World Bank and started operating in the West Bank in June 2010. The full integration of Gaza into the CTP – a process strongly facilitated by the EU – came into effect in December 2011. A total of over 75,500 households living in extreme poverty are presently enrolled to receive cash assistance under the unified CTP. Promoted and supported by the EU, the processes of opening bank accounts for CTP beneficiaries and centralising payments at the level of the PA Ministry of Finance have been instrumental in improving the quality of beneficiaries’ information and transparency of aid delivery.

Learning from the Finnish model

In the area of social policy, Finland has developed the most sophisticated information services system among the European Union and has put in place modern practices of strategic planning. To learn from the Finnish model, twenty employees from the Ministry of Social Affairs travelled to Finland for a study tour organized in partnership with the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the City of Tampere, the School of Management at the University of Tampere and the Finnish National Institute for Welfare and Health.

Following an intensive one-week programme of meetings and briefings, the Palestinian social workers were introduced to a client-oriented approach of delivering social services tailored to different groups: elderly people, people with disabilities, families & children, people leaving under extreme poverty.

Practices of strategic planning were studied at the central government level but mainly at the level of the municipalities. As in many EU countries, also in Finland, the municipalities are in charge of providing social assistance and services to citizens. A certain degree of local level autonomy and flexibility allows for a more cost-effective delivery of services. Hands-on workshops were carried out by the management school of the University of Tampere focusing on the administrative culture that needs to be in place to introduce in Palestine similar social assistance practices as those in the EU.

EU PEGASE Direct Financial Support to Social Allowances

The EU’s support to the Ministry of Social Affairs’ institutional-building efforts are coupled with financial contributions to the payment of social allowances as a means of helping the Palestinian Authority meet its recurring expenditure in a regular and predictable manner, whilst it moves ahead with structural and policy reforms. Payments of social allowances are made on a quarterly basis to beneficiaries registered as extremely poor under the Ministry’s Cash Transfer Programme. Since 2008, the EU and other donors have provided over €172 million to the payment of social allowances to vulnerable Palestinian families. The EU PEGASE financial mechanism allows for other donors to channel their funds and thus far contributions to this programme have come from Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Austria, Finland and Belgium.

The Turkish example

In the past decade, Turkey has made a large-scale investment in social protection and the development of a cost-efficient system with wide-scale coverage of the population. The success of the Turkish model is based on the development of: (i) a comprehensive social insurance (ii) a well targeted system of social assistance focusing on integration in the society and (iii) a long-term investment in service provision and human resources. All three success factors are highly relevant to the development of social protection in Palestine.

Palestinian experts and social policy makers from the Ministry of Social Affairs visited Ankara to be briefed on the Turkish social policy model by the Turkish Ministry of Family & Social Policy as well as the Ministry of Labour & Social Security. The focus of the meetings was on planning & implementation of social service and assistance policies, employment policies and social insurance. Moreover, the Palestinian representatives – the majority being directors of regional offices and special service provision units – made field visits to care centres for children, youth and elderly, community centres and Social Assistance and Solidarity Committee offices in and around Ankara. Both sides expressed their interest in continuing the cooperation between the partner ministries with regards to the development of social policy in Palestine.

Story from the Field

Najah Ibrahim Shehadeh, a mother of twelve, lives with her family and unemployed husband in a dilapidated apartment in El-Bireh city. Najah and her family were suffering for years from marginalization and the absence of a clear and fair system. “When my husband lost his job four years ago, we had enormous difficulties in paying our bills. I am very thankful for the support of the European Union, which allows us to pay off our debts on electricity and water and make sure that we can continue sending our seven youngest children to school.” said Najah. “With my own bank account, it has become much easier to pick up the allowance every three months because I don’t have to face the embarrassment of queuing long hours in front of the bank any more.”

Suher, a social worker for women’s issues, who does regular visits on households like Najah’s, completed a workshop where he learned the best practices in consulting with the clients, assessing their needs and including them in the planning. The workshop also provided the opportunity for colleagues to work as a group and to learn from each other’s field of expertise and experiences. “Talking about the difficulties and challenges that we come across was relieving and brought us closer as colleagues”, explained Suher.

The Office of the European Union Representative, (West Bank & Gaza Strip)
Email: Tel:+972 2 541 5888 Fax:+972 2 541 5848

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