Mr. Daniel Biau, Director of the Regional and Technical Cooperation Division (RTCD), and Mr. Alain Grimard, Senior Human Settlements Officer of the Regional Office for Africa and the Arab States (ROAAS) visited the region on 20-24 August 2009 and met with Palestinian officials and partner institutions.
The aim of the visit was to oversee and review UN-HABITAT’s ongoing activities and projects and to discuss the new UN-HABITAT Programme Document (2009-2011) prepared for the occupied territories with different partners. In Ramallah, the delegation met with Mr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, Minister of Public Works and Housing and discussed with him potential support of UN-HABITAT to the Palestinian housing sector. The delegation also met with Mr. Khaled Qawasmi, Minister of Local Government, and agreed to joint efforts to strengthen the planning practices both at the regional and local levels in the West Bank.
Both the Mayor of Bethlehem, Mr. Victor Batarseh, and the Mayor of Al Khalil (Hebron), Mr. KhaledOsaily, stressed the weak revenue base of municipalities in the occupied territories and the need to revitalize the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities. Mr. Biau cited the Guidelines on Decentralisation and the Strengthening of Local Authorities, approved by UN-HABITAT Governing Council in 2007, as a tool to promote further strengthening of city management.
The delegation visited the project site of King Abdalla Bin Abdel Aziz city for Charity Housing in Al Khalil (Hebron), funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the Saudi Committee for the Palestinian People Relief and implemented by UN-HABITAT where the construction of 100 housing unit has started. The delegation also visited Al-Rahma Medical and Rehabilitation Center project in the town of Taqua (Bethlehem), implemented by UN-HABITAT and funded by the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development (AAAID).
The difficulties to engage in reconstruction, after 22 days of fighting in January 2009, became clear during the visit to the Gaza Strip. The two-year long Israeli blockade continues to prohibit entry of building materials and has brought all construction activities to a halt in the Gaza Strip. The delegation discussed with UNRWA and UNDP how the Agency could support future reconstruction efforts with its technical expertise on housing, focusing on improved construction techniques that could also help to reduce housing costs.
A meeting at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs examined priority areas for collaboration on the basis of the recent Governing Council Resolution. The UN-HABITAT officials met with Mr. Maxwell Gaylard, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, who welcomed UN-HABITAT's involvement in the United Nations Country Team.