2011 was marked by significant political developments in the region and in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). These included a reconciliation agreement reached between the two main political factions Fatah and Hamas in May, a Palestine application for full membership at the United Nations in September, and a subsequent campaign to join individual United Nations organizations. Unfortunately, an on-going stalemate in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation stymied political progress.
In April, the Palestinian Authority presented its Palestinian National Development Plan (2011-2013), and later in the year its efforts were recognized by the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund who declared that the Palestinian Authority was now ‗above the threshold for a functioning state.‘ Gaza recorded some economic growth in 2011, albeit from a very low base, and a decline in unemployment. However, this growth is considered unsustainable as the blockade remains in place, limiting the productive base (i.e. the manufacturing sector) and restricting access to export markets. The growth has also not translated into an increase in food security: 52% of the population in Gaza remains food-insecure.
The main features of the Israeli occupation remain in place and consequently the humanitarian needs in the oPt have not fundamentally changed. Serious protection and human rights issues, limited access to essential services and entrenched levels of food insecurity continue to characterize the day-to-day lives of many Palestinians. Civilian casualties rose more than 30% in Gaza and the West Bank compared to 2010. Israeli authorities continued to impose a blockade on Gaza, amounting to collective punishment of the population and affecting every aspect of life in the Gaza Strip. Livelihoods remained severely constrained by policies that restricted access to the areas with the most viable agricultural and fishing prospects. Restrictions on the movement of goods and people into Gaza have created chronic problems in health services, education and wash, sanitation and hygiene facilities. In East Jerusalem, fewer people were displaced in 2011, but the city and its Palestinian population became progressively more isolated from the rest of the West Bank. Communities in Area C of the West Bank came under increasing pressure—there was a rise in demolitions, a marked increase in settler violence, no easing on movement restrictions and no progress on the planning and zoning regime. Bedouin and herder communities in particular were affected. The threat to lives and livelihoods became too great for many, coping strategies were overwhelmed and an increasing number of Palestinians were displaced from their homes and their land.
The 2012 Consolidated Appeal (CAP) articulates the humanitarian community‘s two-year strategy to tackle the most urgent humanitarian needs that arise from this protracted crisis. It requests US$1416.7 million to implement 149 relief projects in 2012. This CAP has a narrower scope than previous years and focuses on two strategic objectives:
■ Enhancing the protective environment, including access to services.
■ Tackling food insecurity, targeting the most vulnerable communities in the Gaza Strip, Area C of the West Bank, the Seam Zone and East Jerusalem, where the Palestine Authority has limited or no access.
There have been growing concerns in the oPt about the dependence of vulnerable populations on emergency assistance and the urgency of offering Palestinians more sustainable solutions. The publication of the United Nations Medium-Term Response Plan and Palestinian National Dvelopement Plan in 2011 have been important steps to address this and have allowed humanitarian organizations to become more strategic in their provision of relief assistance; to draw a clearer line between emergency programmes, recovery and development interventions; and to remove the latter projects from the CAP. As a result, the current CAP request is more than 25% lower than the previous year (and the lowest since 2006).
Progress in the peace process is desperately needed—the coping strategies of Palestinian communities are being eroded with each year that passes. In this context, organizations, donors and policy-makers must do all that they can to alleviate suffering and support the most vulnerable while demanding respect for the basic human rights of Palestinians under international law. The goal of humanitarian assistance in 2012 is to prevent a further deterioration of the protection situation for Palestinians in the oPt, improve food security and ensure access to basic services pending a final settlement of the conflict.