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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: Quartet
11 December 2003
Statement of the Quartet Task Force on Palestinian Reform
Rome, 11 December  2003

The Task Force on Palestinian Reform, composed of representatives of the Quartet (U.S., EU, Russia and the UN Secretary General), Norway, Japan, Canada, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, met in Rome on December 11, 2003, to review the status of continuing Palestinian reform efforts. Chaired by the EC, the meeting reviewed progress achieved since the last Task Force meeting in February 2003. It discussed these developments, as well as prospects for further progress, with high-level Israeli and Palestinian delegations. The Task Force considers this work critical to building the foundations of a viable, independent, and democratic Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel, as envisaged in the Quartet’s Roadmap to Middle East peace.

The Task Force recognized the establishment of the office of a Palestinian Prime Minister as a major political reform achievement in 2003. It also commended the significant efforts by the Palestinian side in the fields of structural administrative, financial, and economic reform. The Finance Minister now publishes the Palestinian Authority’s budget on the internet, including monthly spending reports. Commercial monopolies have been audited, state security courts abolished, and the workings of the PA Cabinet are being comprehensively reformed. The Task Force commended the 2004 Draft Budget Law, which will further consolidate Palestinian finances under the PA Ministry of Finance, augmenting the accountability and transparency of PA fiscal management. The Palestinian efforts to establish a centrally coordinated and pro-active approach to reform, through the PA Reform Coordination Support Unit under the auspices of the Prime Minister, are also welcomed. Equally, the establishment of the Palestinian National Reform Committee, composed of representatives from the government, the legislature, the business community and civil society, is recognized as a positive step towards ensuring broader Palestinian public participation in setting and supervising reforms and towards developing an even more comprehensive reform agenda.

At the same time, the Task Force expressed deep concern that the reform process has been largely stalled over the past four months. Many key reform benchmarks have not been met, and require the urgent attention of the PA. The extension of direct deposit salary payments to all PA personnel, without exception, should be a top priority; the donor community considers this measure to be a bellwether of Palestinian will and PA empowerment. Other key reform measures that must be addressed include the overdue submission of the PA Auditor-General’s report to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) according to the Basic Law, the need to make the many non-ministerial government agencies accountable to the PLC, and the adoption of laws that are key to the reform process, including for an efficient market economy.

Looking ahead, the Task Force welcomed the recent establishment of a new Palestinian cabinet under Prime Minister Qurie and its declared commitment to reform as a top priority. It examined the new Cabinet’s reform plan presented by the Palestinian delegation and stressed the need for concrete, rapid and visible results on key reform areas in the coming period in order to re-establish momentum recently lost. Focus should be on further progress related to financial accountability, continued judicial reform, and the passing of priority legislation. The PA needs to strengthen the separation of powers by establishing an independent and fully functioning judiciary that obtains the confidence of the public by providing a viable mechanism for dispute resolution; and by urgently improving the effectiveness and the speed of the legislative process. In pursuit of establishing a viable Palestinian state respecting fundamental democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights, the reform process will also need to challenge internal resistance to change. In this regard, the Task Force noted the Palestinian objective to hold elections by summer 2004, stressed the need for an immediate passage of the election law following consideration and debate in the PLC, and encouraged all related preparatory activities to be advanced by the concerned Palestinian authorities, with appropriate facilitation from the Israeli side, in accordance with the Road Map.

The Task Force acknowledged that progress on reform is enhanced by a favorable security and political context, as attested by the positive progress made during the period of relative quiet under the government of Prime Minister Abbas in the summer of 2003. The Task Force also observed that success in the reform process is impossible without the active facilitation of the Israeli Government. The Task Force welcomed the continued regular Israeli transfers of Palestinian tax revenues to the PA. At the same time, it strongly encouraged Israel to better promote Palestinian reform efforts in accordance with the Road Map. While acknowledging Israel’s legitimate security concerns, there was consensus in the Task Force that Israel can do much more. The reluctance to grant predictable and long-term freedom of movement to governmental and non-governmental Palestinian reformers, as well as parliamentarians, combined with continued access obstacles for donor staff working on supporting reform, represents a significant impediment to further progress on the PA’s reform agenda. The Task Force on Palestinian Reform urged Israel to take immediate steps to allow such freedom of movement and also to remove access obstacles encountered by donors.

The Task Force concluded by expressing its expectation that renewed commitment by all parties to advance Palestinian reforms should result in progress over the months ahead, and underscored that a favorable security and political environment would greatly enhance the prospects for achieving visible results. The Task Force expressed its continued willingness to support the Palestinian reform agenda through donor assistance and effective monitoring.

The Task Force on Palestinian Reform was established in July 2002 under the auspices of the Quartet, to monitor and promote implementation of Palestinian reform, and guide the international donor community in its support for the Palestinian reform agenda. Since its formation, the Task Force has worked with its counterparts to further develop and adapt the reform agenda, which highlights the Parties’ commitments, establishes benchmarks, identifies obstacles to reform, and proposes areas for donor assistance. The Task Force has done this by consulting directly with Palestinian executive and legislative officials, with Palestinian civil society, with the Israeli government, and with the donor community. Day-to-day activities of the Task Force are undertaken through seven Reform Support Groups, composed of donor representatives working in the West Bank and Gaza, in the areas of Elections, Financial Accountability, Judicial, Legislative Process, Market Economics, Local Government, and Public Administration and Civil Service Reform. The Reform Support Groups work with the Palestinian Authority to advance the reform plans, monitor implementation, and identify appropriate benchmarks to measure successful implementation of -- and barriers that impede -- reforms.

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