A. ORIGINS AND GOALS
According to a general survey carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in February 2002 on the prevailing income of Palestinian families, it was found that 56.6 per cent of Palestinian families had lost 50 per cent of their normal income since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
On the social level, however, a study sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and conducted by Johns Hopkins University, which assessed nutrition conditions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, revealed that 13.2 per cent of Palestinian children are suffering from chronic malnutrition and 20 per cent from anemia. Moreover, the closures imposed by Israeli forces have reduced the access of Palestinians to clean water sources.
The political and security situation has also made it difficult for Palestinians to receive medical care, especially for those living in rural areas. Studies showed that 73 per cent of the rural population do not receive adequate medical care. The Ministry of Health also indicated that Palestinian hospitals and medical clinics are currently working at roughly 30 per cent capacity. Furthermore, The International Committee of the Red Cross reported numerous incidents in which its crews were prevented from providing necessary medical attention to Palestinian citizens.
The ongoing situation has made it difficult for youth and children to reach education institutions and facilities. The Ministry of Education reported that around 22 per cent of Palestinian preparatory and primary schools have been damaged by Israeli bombardment and that most Palestinian students in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been unable to attend school regularly since March 2002.
Women specifically have suffered from the extended curfews and siege imposed by the Israeli authorities on Palestinian towns and cities. Unable to join the labour market, unemployment rates increased among the male population, forcing women, as a result, to bear the economic burden of their family’s economic needs burden through informal jobs. Furthermore, the presence of an increasing number of husbands and brothers in Israeli prisons has doubled the economic responsibilities of Palestinian women.
The largest number of NGOs active in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are charity organizations (40.4 per cent); Youth and Sport Clubs come in second, come in second, constituting 30.4 per cent; and vocational organizations make up the remaining proportion (29.2 per cent), which are divided as follows: 10.2 per cent cultural, 4.8 per cent relief, 4.9 per cent developmental, 3.5 per cent research, 2.7 per cent rehabilitation and training, and 2.7 per cent legal. Another study, carried out by the Bissan Center for Research and Development,— which was entitled “The Role of NGOs in Building Civil Society” and included a survey of 207 Palestinian civil society institutions—identified the various roles of civil society institutions. Of the sample, 35 institutions (65.2 per cent) were involved in development and relief services; 21 (10.1 per cent) in mobilizing and affecting legislation and public policies; 123 (59.1 per cent) in social education and raising public awareness; 75 (36.2 per cent) in institution-building and developing human resources; and 23 (11.1 per cent) in networking, coordination, cooperation and deliberation.
Regarding the relationship with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), the same study revealed that 185 organizations institutions of the sample surveyed (89.4 per cent) believe that establishing professional work relations with the PNA is essential in developing a democratic civil society—mainly because such a relationship reflects complementarity and would give the civil society influence on the policies of the PNA. Through such a relationship, it would also be more possible to acquire material and moral support from the PNA. However, the NGOs stressed the importance of meticulously implementing civil institution laws and laws relating to civil society institutions and thus create a legal environment for NGO activities. They also emphasized the necessity of developing a professional paradigm for cooperation based on full partnership.
During the next period, which may be relatively calm, owing to the Road Map initiative, it is expected that the Palestinian civil society will:
(d) Enhance cooperation, coordination, networking and consultation among various civil society institutions and organizations, the private sector, donors and United Nations entities in order to guarantee a real and fruitful development process.