UK to Tackle Poverty in Occupied Palestinian Territories
The UK places emphasis on the need for a resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; it is an international policy priority. It wants to see a democratic Palestinian state in conjunction with a secure Israel and believes that direct discussions between the parties offer the best prospects for a result to the unsteady situation. The UK has also made it transparent that it will judge any Palestinian government on its ability to reject violence, negotiate and pursue peace.
Although the United Kingdom has already made developments in helping the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), it is clear that there is still an extraordinary amount of work to be done. In the past, the UK has focused on helping drive the Palestinian economy forward by helping businesses grow, as well as by helping vulnerable people of the region. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has also made considerable development in recent years as demonstrated by an improvement in security and economic management as well as its Programme of the 13th Government. However, it is still struggling with its capacity to govern financially, as 37% of its budget comes from external assistance, and geographically, as Israel controls the majority of the West Bank.
There are currently millions of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) who are struggling to get by with some of the most basic necessities required to survive. To put this into context, four million of those living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza currently live below the poverty line. Furthermore, according to the Department for International Development (DFID), 4.8 million Palestinian refugees are entirely dependent on aid from the United Nations. Additionally, it has also been noted that Gaza is in a much direr situation than the West Bank, making it the poorest Middle East and North Africa region after Yemen and Sudan. One of the factors demonstrating this is unemployment rates which are currently 17% and 38% in the West Bank and Gaza respectively. The UN has described Gaza as being in a state of ‘de-development.’
On his recent visit to the region, Alan Duncan, the International Development Minister, announced the UK’s new four year plan of action to help these circumstances. The four year plan also supports UK Government goals for a successful Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) by helping OPTs pursue the ultimate goal of stability.
Duncan also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Prime Minister Fayyad of the Palestinian National Authority confirming a mutual commitment to tackling poverty in OPTs and achieving regional peace. The Memorandum also demonstrated the PA’s commitment to non-violence, a two-state solution and the respect of human rights.
The recently announced four year plan, which is subject to major change because of the unpredictable nature of conflict in the region, has been clearly set out by the DFID in its Operational Plan 2011-2015; it focuses on three main sections: state-building, wealth creation and poverty and vulnerability. In total, the DFID has stated that the £349 million will be put towards the following:
• Providing primary education for over 35,000 children
• Immunising nearly 30,000 under five year olds against measles
• Helping to create 8,000 new jobs, with particular support for small and family owned businesses
• Supporting women victims of violence by improving facilities at police family protection units
• Direct payments to over 215,000 poor people, to buy food, medicine and other essentials locally – also boosting the economy
I do believe that the new four year plan looks promising. It is also assuring that the DFID has recognized that it needs to concentrate its resources on ‘fewer, larger projects that are more strategically targeted.’ Even more assuring is that it has also set out its goal of delivering ‘value for money’ by minimizing the financial costs to the British taxpayer; something that I believe is positive but should already be a given.
Other partners working on the project include The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the United Nations as well as a variety of Non Governmental Organizations.
Hopefully the goals set out in the plan will materialise.