Select Committee on International Development Second Report


This report looks at the context in which development can take place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We set out the challenges which donors face, commenting on how these have shaped the way in which donors operate. We examine how DFID works towards its humanitarian objective of alleviating suffering in the short term and, in the longer term, its political objective of laying the basis for a viable Palestinian state.

The operating environment in the OPT is one of conflict. Israel's security measures: curfews; movement restrictions; the security barrier and the network of settlements; are preventing Palestinians from accessing services, as well as inhibiting humanitarian and development work. Above all, they are destroying the Palestinian economy and creating widespread poverty. The security barrier has raised fears that its real objective is de facto to create new borders between Israel and an eventual Palestinian state.

The Palestinian Authority, created by the Oslo Accords, is the sole institution of Palestinian government and representation. We examine its structure and role as the foundation of a future Palestinian state, and comment on the reforms which it needs to make in order to further Palestinian development and prepare for statehood. We discuss at some length the Palestinian economy, its inherent weaknesses and vulnerability stemming from structural dependence on Israel. We argue that it is not acceptable for Israel to inhibit the ability of the Palestinians to take advantage of their trade agreements with the European Union, whilst simultaneously benefiting from its own preferential European trade terms. The EU should not shy away from using economic pressure to gain political leverage with Israel.

We examine in detail the main challenges to development in the OPT. The impact of these has been so severe as to bring about a situation which is best described as de-development. The destruction of physical infrastructure and movement restrictions, which are faced by international staff, as well as Palestinians, hinder humanitarian relief and development work. Investment in human and institutional capacity building has proved to be an effective method of development assistance; part of this involves support to the Palestinian Authority.

Development assistance to the Palestinian Authority must be monitored closely to ensure it is used for the purposes intended. In addition to bilateral aid, DFID also provides support through the EU and UNRWA. Budget support from the EU has been vital in providing both emergency relief and targeted aid. It has kept the Palestinian Authority afloat and helped drive the reform agenda. Technical assistance from DFID is an effective way of working towards DFID's objective of building the foundations of a future Palestinian state. Development assistance could be more effective if donor strategies and activities were harmonised: Palestinian-led development should become the catalyst for greater harmonisation. We discuss UNRWA's continuing role and the co-ordination of service delivery to people within the OPTs.

International law provides the framework for humanitarian assistance under occupation. The obstruction of humanitarian and development work is neither acceptable nor legal. But there is little systematic monitoring of the breaches that occur and Palestinians themselves have no means of redress. A respected international interlocutor is needed to negotiate with the Israelis and monitor the occupation, thereby ensuring it is as humane as can possibly be. UNSCO's role in this area must be strengthened, but it may also be necessary to appoint a further UN Humanitarian Envoy or Special Representative to ensure effective international scrutiny.

In the final parts of our report we discuss wider issues of donor involvement. These include the role for advocacy of the Palestinian case, and the extent to which donor involvement in the OPT is, in effect, supporting the occupation. The appalling situation in the OPT is not the result of a natural disaster; it is man-made and as such it requires a political solution. Increasing donor assistance will not solve the problems in the OPT.

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