99. He explained that the United Nations presence consisted of 20 entities, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Representatives of those entities, who came together on a regular basis, had recently met in Ramallah and had concluded that there were five areas where the United Nations entities could start to work together to deliver to the Palestinian population and to support the Palestinian agenda. Those areas were governance, rule of law and human rights, livelihood, education, health and infrastructure. In each of those areas, six or seven agencies could come together and report to the country team. The humanitarian country team had seven members, which included international and national NGOs and the Red Cross. The country team was responsible for the yearly consolidated appeal. He explained that it was difficult to separate what was development and what was humanitarian, saying the latter had elements of reconstruction and development.
100. Turning to Gaza, he said it had become a welfare society, noting the situation had been entirely man-made. The United Nations was a big player in Gaza through the work of UNRWA and some 10 other agencies, which dealt with a sort of “mediaeval” siege that daily locked the strip in from the Israeli and Egyptian side as well as from the sea and the air. He went on to say that the reported pockets of growth in the West Bank came only from stimulus money and were not sustainable. He ascertained that closures had a great impact on the economy, and Area C in particular was doing very badly, with 79 per cent food insecurity. The areas caught between the separation wall and the Green Line had been cut off and had experienced a catastrophic drop in living standards. At the humanitarian and the development levels, there were pockets of poverty even in East Jerusalem.
101. He reported that the United Nations presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory encompassed political, economic and humanitarian components. He recognized that the United Nations needed a unity of purpose to better serve the Palestinian people. At the same time, the Organization had the mandate and the legitimacy to encourage donors to apply aid effectiveness principles. He concluded by saying that the ultimate role of the United Nations system in mobilizing and coordinating international assistance to the Palestinian people was to ensure that such assistance was not merely focused on strengthening the capacities of Palestinians who were making history but also on giving hope and a voice to all Palestinians affected by it.
102. Matthias Burchard, Head of the UNRWA Geneva Office, said that his Agency served as a useful illustration of how effective the United Nations could be in addressing the humanitarian and human development needs of an important segment of the Palestinian community, namely the refugees. He said the Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory constituted about a third of the West Bank population and 70 per cent of that of Gaza. The sheer size of the refugee population meant that UNRWA’s operation contributed significantly to the development of the Territory and to advancing the state-building agenda. Over the decades, UNRWA had directly delivered essential services to Palestine refugees at reasonable standards of quality in a reliable, predictable way, in close cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, communities and the United Nations system.
103. Citing accomplishments in the provision of knowledge and skills, he said that the Agency had provided elementary, preparatory, vocational and technical training to some 260,000 pupils in over 315 educational institutions, while employing 10,600 educational staff. He recalling that in 1962, UNRWA had opened the Ramallah Women’s Training Centre, the first vocational training centre for women in the Arab world, establishing the Agency as a pioneer in the region. In the field of primary health care, he said UNRWA had had a considerable impact in ensuring healthy lives, delivering the Agency’s health care programme through over 2,000 doctors and nurses in 58 facilities. It had also established services that dealt with the consequences of protracted violence and insecurity, including mental health care and physiotherapy. UNRWA had addressed poverty by providing food and shelter, as well as microcredit to stimulate self-reliance.
104. He emphasized that the crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was crippling what had been achieved. In Gaza, closure remained an overarching concern. He hoped that the recent Israeli decision to allow the entry of the necessary construction materials and the disbursement of the 2009 pledges to rebuild Gaza might now alleviate the humanitarian situation of Palestinians. Citing an example, he said that, in May 2007, the Agreement on Movement and Access entitlement allowed 12,350 trucks monthly into the Gaza Strip compared to only 2,236 trucks in February 2009. With respect to the West Bank, he said that, despite reports of some improvement, poverty rates among the refugees were very high, owing to the continuing extension of the barrier and the associated closure regime, settlement expansion and other restrictions. He noted that, after more than 40 years of occupation, the West Bank was splintered to an extent that compromised its integrity as a viable economic and social unit.
105. He stated that lack of funds was a primary concern for the Agency, which had been coping with the global financial crisis, rising costs of living, poverty and the declining living conditions of its beneficiaries. The Agency’s 2010 financial gap had been estimated at $141 million. He called on the international community to maintain and enhance its support for humanitarian and development work. The greatest challenge to humanitarian work, however, was the absence of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He ended by saying that the ultimate assistance for the Palestinians was a just and lasting resolution of the conflict that delivered a viable Palestinian State existing in peace with its neighbours.
106. Mike Bailey, representing the Executive Committee of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) in Jerusalem, said his organization concurred with and supported the principles and aspirations of the Palestinian people as contained in the Palestinian Authority Programme. Presenting his Agency, he said that it consisted of 90 international NGOs, operating throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory on the practical work of development and humanitarian response. He referred to the Agency’s support of farmers and local cooperatives, which helped to sustain Palestinian livelihoods and promoted economic development. The Agency also worked with national and local authorities and service providers to develop and consolidate reliable and affordable access to basic services, such as water and health and education, always with an overriding concern for humanitarian rights and justice.
107. Expanding his remarks on four areas, he said that the guiding principle in translating the Programme into the foundations of a viable Palestinian State was accountability to the Palestinian people. That was true for all actors, including the international NGO community, which would continue to seek improved cooperation and collaboration with the Authority and Palestinian civil society. AIDA hoped that in its pursuit of the goals of the Programme, the Authority would ensure that advocacy and free expression by Palestinian civil society organizations and the Palestinian people were protected.
108. Turning to the second area, he highlighted the situations in Area C and East Jerusalem. He said the Palestinian Authority did not control the rights, security or access to justice of the Palestinian people living there and encouraged the Authority to take steps to politically and diplomatically support the changes needed in Area C and East Jerusalem. There was a need to enable the development and integration of Area C and East Jerusalem into the rest of the Palestinian Territory. In East Jerusalem, 250,000 Palestinian residents were being squeezed in and harassed by Israeli settlers, who appeared to behave with impunity. The policy of the Israeli authorities was that Jerusalem was wholly and exclusively the capital of Israel. He stressed that the plight and uncertainty of Palestinians in East Jerusalem must be in the forefront of the Palestinian Authority’s demands for rights and justice for its people.
109. Third, he said AIDA was also gravely concerned about the blockade imposed on the people of Gaza. One impediment to the removal of the blockade appeared to be the Palestinian divisions, which compromised the Agency’s work in mitigating the humanitarian consequences of the continuing blockade. He endorsed the Programme’s aspirations regarding Palestinian unity, emphasizing that they were fundamental to resolving the suffering of the people of Gaza. Turning to the fourth and last area, he said that the most serious problem that Palestinians faced in their daily lives was the continual abuse of their human rights and the obstacles they encountered when seeking justice for those abuses. Palestinians were being struck, abused, shot at and detained, without proper access to legal representation, charges or trial. They told of attacks and detention by Israeli settlers as they went to school or worked their land. He ended by saying that AIDA called for support of the human rights of the Palestinian people.
110. Ghania Malhis, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute in Ramallah, emphasized that international assistance to the Palestinian people had continued to grow. She said that, from 1994 to 2000, the annual contribution averaged $500 million. During the period 2001-2005, it jumped to an annual average of $1 billion and was expected to reach almost $2 billion in 2010. She noted that the substantial growth in Arab assistance represented 25 per cent of total contributions since 2001. That figures excluded contributions from national campaigns from the Arab region, NGOs and other informal channels, which had exceeded $5 billion over the past decade, mostly in the form of relief, food and care. The figures also excluded the contributions of Arab States to the budget of UNRWA and the expenses associated with hosting four million Palestinian refugees.
111. Focusing on a primary assessment of the impact of the contributions to the Palestinian people, she said her analysis had led to two conflicting conclusions. The first conclusion was the highly encouraging substantial resources mobilized by the international community and the Arab countries to assist Palestinians, which amounted to $15 billion and more than $6 billion in the case of NGOs, over the past 15 years. However, the second conclusion was that it had been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of those resources, even when considering the substantial Palestinian private sector investments. She acknowledged there had been progress in the establishment of Palestinian Authority institutions, but the funds had failed to bring back the socio-economic performance witnessed in 1999. Citing figures, she said that the Palestinian 2009 GDP was 13 per cent lower than that of 1999. She added that the 2009 budget deficit, amounting to 39 per cent of the Palestinian GDP, was expected to be addressed by international support.
112. She said that future projections were much bleaker, considering that the Authority’s payroll represented more than 59.6 per cent of its expenditures and unemployment rates amounted to 21 and 42.4% per cent in the West Bank and Gaza respectively. Based on those numbers, the mobilized resources had been wasted; they had been utilized to fund a fading peace process rather than fund the basis for a lasting peace. Donors took a reactive approach, responding to crisis after crisis rather than preparing the ground to pre-empt crises. The Palestinian Authority carried a sizeable responsibility, as it had failed to invest in development and had used the funds instead to cover expenditures. Israel’s responsibility was colossal, she continued. Since the 1993 peace treaty, Israel had continued its colonial practices, including the isolation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank from each other and from East Jerusalem, the confiscation of 85 per cent of Palestinian water and the uprooting of more than one million trees.
113. She said that, to find a way forward, efforts must be translated into massive reforms and visionary partnerships among donors, the Palestinian Authority and key sectors of Palestinian society. A main component of a paradigm shift in developmental strategies must be a capable and innovative workforce. A responsible private sector and civil society must be engaged in order to create the needed infrastructure for a flourishing Palestinian economy that nurtured creativity and innovation. All those efforts would be of zero significance, however, unless they were coupled with a political solution to end the Israeli occupation. She concluded that all hopes and dreams of regional peace would be shattered if the current opportunity was missed.
115. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, said the Seminar had brought together representatives, experts and academicians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory and representatives of various United Nations agencies and NGOs to discuss the Palestinian Authority Programme and identify ways to assist the Palestinians in State-building. International donors and organizations were helping the Palestinians, not out of charity or because the Palestinians could not help themselves, but because the Palestinian people were living under occupation and the United Nations, from its inception, had been mandated to remain involved in the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects.
116. He stated that his Government had introduced an ambitious programme to end the occupation in two years by building institutions under the difficult circumstances of occupation. Experts had analyzed that programme in a critical way. Referring to one of the presentations, he said the situation of Palestinian women had been exposed. The figures had been embarrassing but the reality had to be addressed. Welcoming the criticism, he explained that the Palestinians were living under occupation and were not afraid to face criticism.
117. He opined that ending the occupation was not only the responsibility of the Palestinian people, who were at the forefront of the problem, but of Governments and United Nations agencies as well. Addressing Government representatives directly, he said it was unacceptable for them to say all the right things while Israel continued to do the wrong thing. Palestinians expected the right things to be implemented. He said Palestinians were sick and tired of listening to Government representatives and hearing statements acknowledging and condemning the violations of Israel without offering practical ways to bring Israel into compliance.
118. The Palestinian Authority was willing to participate in proximity talks, although they were not likely to succeed. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority was not going to wait until they failed. He noted that there was a global consensus on the two-State solution and urged European and other countries around the world that were supportive of the two-State solution to recognize the State of Palestine within its 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Only then could the Palestinians go to the Security Council to get a “birth certificate” that would recognize the State of Palestine. In the meantime, if some countries wanted to add a caveat with some adjustments, the Palestinian Authority might be willing to consider it. After such a resolution, he concluded, Palestine would ask for membership at the United Nations and raise its flag as the 193rd Member State in 2011.
119. In his closing remarks, Zahir Tanin, head of the delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Right of the Palestinian People, noted that, during three plenary meetings, experts had analysed the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and had made specific recommendations for the success of the Palestinian Authority’s Programme, entitled “Palestine: ending the occupation, establishing the State.”
120. He noted that many speakers had backed the Programme, highlighting the imperative of achieving economic independence and sustainable growth. They warned that the economic crisis would not abate with financial aid only and emphasized the need to work consistently on ending the occupation. The main challenge was to move away from being enabled by donor funds and remittances to a productive economy. Experts also reviewed lessons learned from the Paris Protocols, indicating possible pitfalls to be avoided in implementing the Fayyad Plan. They acknowledged the considerable achievements of the Palestinian Authority in implementing the Programme, despite the many obstacles. They agreed that the reconstruction of Gaza must be part of the overall Palestinian State-building project.
121. Experts ascertained that the goal was the creation of representative and transparent public institutions, promoting wide civil society engagement and bearing in mind the need for broad consensus-building within Palestinian society. One expert recommended mainstreaming gender issues, demanding an enhanced economic participation of and social protection for women. Other speakers looked at the role of the United Nations system, in particular that of coordinating international humanitarian assistance and UNRWA’s role as the provider of vital socio-economic services. It was suggested that international actors should coordinate their approaches towards creating a skilled workforce capable of propelling the Palestinians towards sustainable development. The public and private sectors and an engaged civil society could work together with transparent Palestinian institutions to achieve such development.
122. He stressed that the two days of deliberations had been most informative, insightful and inspiring. The accounts of the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people were disheartening but had strengthened the determination to provide relief to the Palestinian people. He concluded by suggesting that the international community should simultaneously keep its focus on achieving the long-term goals for Palestinian economic and social development and, above all, achieving Palestinian statehood in accordance with international legitimacy.