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Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
14 October 2004
Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory:
Towards an Independent State
In order to address the deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), the Arab-International Forum on Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Towards an Independent State was held in Beirut from 11-14 October 2004.
The Forum was organized by ESCWA, the League of Arab States and the Palestinian Authority (PA), in cooperation with an advisory group established to draw the general framework of the Forum, and set its main objectives, which are:
To initiate a continuous process of rehabilitation and development in the OPT, despite continuous instability.
To enhance Arab-Palestinian partnerships and to maximize the benefits of existing Arab financial and other mechanisms of support to the Palestinian people.
The Forum saw an exceptionally wide range of participation, with over 450 representatives from Palestine, Arab and other countries at the governmental, private sector and non-governmental levels. Emphasis was placed on maintaining the Forum as a permanent consultative process and following up on its recommendations via a joint specialized committee and ESCWA.
DECLARATION ISSUED BY
THE ARAB-INTERNATIONAL FORUM
ON REHABILITATION AND DEVELOPMENT
IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY:
TOWARDS AN INDEPENDENT STATE
BEIRUT, 11-14 OCTOBER 2004
Under the auspices of His Excellency General Emile Lahoud, President of Lebanon, the Arab-International Forum on Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Towards an Independent State was held in Beirut from 11 to 14 October 2004 and attended by representatives of governments and Palestinian, Arab and international governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The objectives of the Forum included the reaffirmation of the responsibility and commitment of the international community towards the Palestinian people; and the urgent need to re-orient Arab and international efforts towards medium- and long-term economic and social development in Palestine while, at the same time, providing relief for the Palestinian people, in order to alleviate the conditions of occupation. Further objectives were to mobilize Arab support for the rehabilitation and development process in the occupied Palestinian territory and to formulate specific and effective arrangements and mechanisms to strengthen the bilateral and multilateral partnership of all sides in assisting the Palestinian people to overcome the economic and social impact of the occupation and address future challenges on the basis of the priorities and vision set by the Palestinians.
The Forum was held over a highly intensive four-day period, during which participants followed with the greatest apprehension the continuing process of the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure, economy, society and human resources and of Palestinian public and private property.
Participants expressed their profound concern at the continued deterioration of the security situation and the Israeli military escalation in the occupied Palestinian territory, in addition to the policies of closure, isolation and the building of the barrier and the expansion of Israeli settlement in the Palestinian territory, all of which reduce the likelihood of any political settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli and the Arab-Israeli conflicts and threaten regional and international security and stability.
Participants also warned of the dangers posed by the continuous drain of Palestinian human and material resources, worsening living conditions and destruction of economic and commercial activity caused by the restrictions imposed on the movement of persons and commodities; the withdrawal of public and private investment in the occupied Palestinian territory; the collapse of Palestinian productive and employment capacities; the serious extension of the phenomena of poverty and unemployment; the growing dependence of the Palestinian people on relief assistance for survival; and the almost complete cessation of the implementation of development projects, which has serious long-term implications on capacity-building and Palestinian economic and social institutions capable of reviving the economic and on the social development process that would be the basis for the foundation of any sustainable State.
Participants considered that the deteriorating economic and social conditions resulting from the measures taken by the Occupying Power required a serious and radical response from the international community that would end Palestinian economic dependence on the Israeli economy, strengthen its independent capacities and conserve its human and material resources.
Notwithstanding the lack of security and the continuous destruction of Palestinian social and economic infrastructure, it was both possible and essential to take action to strengthen international-Arab-Palestinian partnership, with a view to restarting an unimpeded socio-economic development process.
Participants expressed their complete solidarity with the Palestinian people and their determination to intensify and coordinate their endeavours with a view to the following:
1. To uphold the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people established by international conventions, norms and resolutions, including the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State, and to exercise its right to development and to have sovereignty over its resources and use them in accordance with its own interests and in accordance with its priorities.
2. To implement the relevant international resolutions and to continue the efforts and initiatives of the international community aimed at achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
3. To link relief efforts with comprehensive development, thereby ensuring that such efforts contributed to building Palestinian capacities and helped the Palestinian people to deal with the economic and social impact of the occupation and establish a viable independent State.
4. To provide various forms of international and Arab support for rehabilitation and development in the occupied Palestinian territory in accordance with a Palestinian vision and Palestinian priorities, through the following five means:
(a) The continuation and strengthening of Arab Government mechanisms for the provision of financial support to the Palestinian people and the activation of their role in building genuine and unimpeded Arab-international partnership;
(b) The enhancement of governments and international organizations support for the process of rehabilitation and development in the occupied Palestinian territory;
(c) The establishment of Arab-international partnership with the Palestinian private sector with a view to supporting production, marketing of products and investment;
(d) The mobilization and coordination of partnership between international and Arab nongovernmental organizations in the provision of relief and sustainable human development;
(e) The establishment of more dependable channels and links enabling the Palestinian diaspora to participate in the process of rehabilitation and development in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The participants thanked the Lebanese Government for hosting the Forum and providing all the facilities necessary for its success. Similarly, they expressed their appreciation of the efforts exerted by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the Palestinian Authority and the League of Arab States for the preparations for and successful convening of the event.
THE ARAB INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON REHABILITATION AND DEVELOPMENT
IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY:
TOWARDS AN INDEPENDENT STATE
DRAFT FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Participants made the following recommendations:
1. Emphasis should be placed on the support of all parties for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and its efforts to achieve those rights, including the right to development.
2. Arab and international communities should undertake to give urgent priority to social and economic development issues in the occupied Palestinian territory, despite the continuing Israeli occupation, hostility and conflict, and the necessity of linking aid programmes and emergency assistance to Palestinian development strategies, plans and programmes.
3. Efforts should be concentrated to support of Palestinian elementary education in particular and higher education in general, in order to develop human resources capable of coping with the challenges of liberation from occupation and those of economic and social development, so enhancing productivity and competitiveness and to develop the prerequisites for setting the Palestinian economy on the path of sustainable development after independence.
4. Socio-economic development for the Palestinian people should be considered as a continuous process guided by Palestinian concerns and priorities and should enjoy the support and backing of international/Arab partnership.
5. All donors and partners in the Palestinian development process should be urged to formulate development aid programmes and emergency assistance projects based on Palestinian development vision, needs, priorities and plans.
6. All parties concerned should be urged to intensify efforts to reintegrate the Palestinian economy into the surrounding Arab environment, by making it possible for the Palestinian people to obtain the maximum benefit from the League of Arab States resolutions on the granting of preferential treatment to Palestinian products and exemption from obstructive customs duties and taxes and any other restrictions on Palestinian exports to Arab markets, in addition to facilitating the entry of Palestinian businessmen to Arab States.
7. The reform plan, adopted on 27 September 2004 by the Palestinian Council of Ministers and the Palestinian Legislative Council in order to enhance the performance of government institutions, should be welcomed, as well as the rapid efforts of the National Authority to formulate a Palestinian development vision and build effective partnerships between the Authority, the private sector and civil society institutions in order to stimulate socio-economic development process.
8. Governmental and non-governmental organizations at both the regional and international levels are called upon to support the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Palestine in the implementation of its plan of work for the coming three years, as an expression of their commitment to the issue of the advancement of Palestinian women.
9. The Palestinian Authority should be commended for its role in supporting the steadfastness of all sectors of the Palestinian people confronting the occupation and the continual military operations that seek to destroy the fabric and capabilities of Palestinian society, with emphasis on its role in confronting this hostility since it is the legally elected Palestinian entity recognized by the Arab and international communities.
10. A body of trained Palestinian media professionals should be developed that is capable of keeping abreast of recent developments and challenges in order to express them in the appropriate manner in various media, in addition to investment in the media and seeking to place development issues on the media agenda.
11. The international community should request Israel to compensate the Palestinian people for the economic and human losses that it has been sustaining as a result of Israeli policies and practices and should seek to identify and evaluate these increasing losses so that their magnitude can be clearly estimated and compensation mechanisms formulated.
12. The importance of the intervention of the international community in the prevention of Israeli aggression should be emphasized and pressure should be placed on Israel to halt policies, practices and procedures that obstruct development in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular:
(a) Depletion of human and natural resources through the confiscation of lands, water and other resources, continued construction and expansion of settlements, construction of the dividing wall and bypass roads and driving out the skilled labour force;
(b) Depletion of economic and social capital through the systematic destruction of the infrastructure, amenities, public health and education facilities, the productive base of the agricultural and industrial sectors and other natural resources;
(c) Trade barriers arising from the blockade and barriers and administrative measures that obstruct domestic and foreign trade, with Arab partners in particular, which constitute a breach of the Paris Economic Protocol;
(d) Arbitrary and systematic seizure of Palestinian public revenues for long periods, which constitutes a violation of the Paris Economic Protocol, in particular the undeclared seizure of value added tax, sales and customs tax revenues and the illegal confiscation of part thereof.
13. There should be a call to strengthen official Arab, bilateral and multilateral civil partnerships at all levels, including governments, funds, organizations, the private sector and civil society institutions, with the aim of supporting the Palestinians as well as coordinating and integrating Arab support with international aid frameworks, in order to help Palestinians to overcome the social and economic impacts of the occupation, consolidate the basic components of independence and address future challenges, through:
(a) Welcoming the resolutions of the joint meeting of Arab funds and financial institutions and Arab economic institutions held in Cairo on 7 and 8 September 2004, circulated with the Forum documents and adopted at the Arab ministerial meeting;
(b) Enhancing Arab and international support mechanisms for strengthening development and aid efforts in the Palestinian territory. In this context, it is necessary to:
(i) Call for an intensification of efforts to help the Palestinian people, with the aim of rehabilitating the Palestinian economy, strengthening its capacities and ending its dependence on the Israeli economy, within the framework of the Palestinian vision of development;
(ii) Emphasize the importance of continuing to develop Arab support mechanisms that should continue to respond to the requirements of linking aid to development and remain committed to Palestinian development needs and priorities;
(c) Strengthening partnerships between the Palestinian, Arab and international private sector institutions in order to support Palestinian production, marketing and investment, through:
(i) Encouraging investments and establishing joint economic projects in the occupied Palestinian territory;
(ii) Supporting the Palestinian and joint Palestinian-Arab private sector, in particular through the establishment of funds allocated to financing small and medium-sized enterprises in the occupied Palestinian territory and facilitation of the access of Palestinians to such funds;
(iii) Facilitating the transfer of expertise to the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular through the technical cooperation programmes of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and United Nations specialized bodies and formulating the procedures and exemptions necessary to enable Palestinians to benefit from human capacity-building programmes;
(iv) Focusing on technical support programmes and procedures that contribute to improving the quality and competitiveness of Palestinian goods and services;
(v) Providing the necessary information to Palestinian businessmen on methods of benefiting from the Palestinian export insurance programmes provided by IDB, the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation and other Arab and international programmes;
(vi) Invigorating the role of Arab private sector institutions in facilitating the access of Palestinian products to Arab markets through supporting the implementation of League of Arab States resolutions relating to the granting of preferential treatment to Palestinian exports, in addition to the establishment of exhibitions for Palestinian products and centres for the promotion of Palestinian trade in Arab markets;
(vii) Seeking to develop permanent networks of communication and information exchange between Palestinian and Arab private sector institutions and encouraging joint initiatives in this sphere;
(d) Strengthening the participation of international, Arab and Palestinian civil society institutions in sustainable development and emergency aid efforts through:
(i) Enhancing cooperation in order to invigorate the participation of Palestinian and Arab institutions in decision-making and the formulation of local, regional and global policies;
(ii) Enhancing cooperation with regard to the establishment of alliances, capacity-building and information exchange, in particular through twinning institutions and organizations and implementing training programmes for the exchange of expertise between Arab and Palestinian institutions, including students, professors, doctors and other specialists;
(iii) Establishing a permanent structure to help Arab and Palestinian civil society institutions hold regular meetings and enable them to better coordinate their efforts and encouraging these institutions to pursue their consultations after the Forum, in order to identify the objectives, terms of reference and membership criteria of this structure;
(iv) Strengthening the role of local authorities as essential partners in linking aid efforts with development in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular in the areas of the provision of water, health services, education and roads, including increasing financial support to the Palestinian National Authority Municipalities Fund and encouraging the twinning of municipalities and support for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (HABITAT) in order to support the Palestinian people;
(e) Consolidation of relations and channels enabling Palestinians in the diaspora to support Palestinians in the occupied territory, through:
(i) Strengthening consultations between diaspora Palestinians and their peers in the occupied territory with regard Development Vision, priorities and strategies in the occupied Palestinian territory;
(ii) Diversifying the mechanisms and methods whereby diaspora communities can contribute to human development efforts in the occupied Palestinian territory to include financial contributions, investment and capacity-building in the occupied Palestinian territory, providing expertise and facilitating the access of Palestinian goods to Arab and global markets;
(iii) Promoting the use of knowledge transfer programmes such as the United Nations Development Programme and Al-Aqsa Fund initiative Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) programme in order to provide technical assistance to the Palestinian people;
(iv) Establishing new partnership programmes and plans for the construction of a database on Palestinian experts in the diaspora, in cooperation with specialized Arab and international organizations including the International Organization for Migration (IOM);
(v) Utilizing information technology in order to establish a remote capacity-development programme and also mobilize Palestinian experts in the diaspora;
(vi) Formulating a mechanism to enable Palestinian institutions in the diaspora to strengthen coordination and consultation with regard to the application of Palestinian development strategies;
14. It should be pointed out that this Forum is considered to be a unique initiative. The Forum has witnessed the voluntary participation of global, Arab, regional and national organizations in order to mobilize resources and exchange experiences in order to support a Palestinian development strategy characterized by national sovereignty and formulated based on cooperation between the Palestinian National Authority, civil society institutions and development partners from the private sector.
15. Emphasis should be placed on the importance of maintaining the Forum as a permanent consultative process and the importance to follow up on the implementation of its recommendations through the establishment of a joint specialized committee, with the Advisory Group at its core, in order to follow up on the outcomes of the Forum. ESCWA would call for the first meeting of the follow-up committee to decide the measures necessary for its activation, identify its mechanisms and tasks, follow up on implementation of the recommendations of the Forum and encourage the initiatives announced thereat, with the possibility of reconvening the Forum at a time to be proposed by the Advisory Group.
16. Their appreciation of the efforts of the organizers and their partners in organizing and hosting the forum, in particular ESCWA, the League of Arab States, the Palestinian National Authority and the other members of the Consultative Group should be expressed.
PRACTICAL INITIATIVES LAUNCHED DURING
THE ARAB-INTERNATIONAL FORUM
FOR REHABILITATION AND DEVELOPMENT
IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY
1. The initiative on the part of the Islamic Development Bank/Al-Aqsa Fund to allocate US$ 23 million for rehabilitation in the Gaza Strip.
2. The initiative on the part of the I’tilaf al-khayr and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to allocate US$ 5 million (of which US$ 3 million has already been paid by I’tilaf al-khayr) to support the agricultural and agro-food products sectors and to develop Palestinian capacities in the two important sectors.
3. The Qatar Red Crescent initiative for the development of human capacities in the health services sector over five years. This sector is vital in view of the occupation.
4. The “Berlin Initiative for the Removal of the Separation Barrier” (the barrier being built by the occupying authorities on Palestinian territory), to devote US$ 500,000 to media campaigns and advocacy efforts aiming to remove the barrier. EUROPAL and I’tilaf Al-khayr will contribute to finance this initiative.
5. The initiative by the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN), in Jordan, and the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), in cooperation with ESCWA, to replant one million trees uprooted in the occupied Palestinian territory by the Israeli authorities over the past few years. This initiative is in cooperation with INTERPAL which allocated the sum of US$ 500,000 to the project as seed money for its implementation.
6. The initiative by the Arab NGO Network for Development, and a group of other Arab networks, to establish a coalition of Arab and Palestinian civil society institutions to enhance and mobilize partnership and to support the development of Palestinian civil society institutions. As such, seminars in Arab countries will be organized in order to disseminate information on the Palestinian vision and strategy. In addition, a seminar with Arab funds will also be organized to adopt an integrated Arab mechanism to provide support and assistance.
7. The agreement between the Islamic Development Bank and the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association (ASALA), pursuant to which a portfolio of Islamic loans in the amount of US$ 200,000 will be made available to support micro-projects undertaken by Palestinian women.
8. The agreement between the Islamic Bank and ASALA regarding loans for micro-projects as an experimental stage. A sum of US$ 1.4 million has been allocated to seven other Palestinian institutions involved in supporting micro-projects. Further agreements will be concluded in the future with other institutions working in Palestine in the same field.