Select Committee on International Development Second Report

5 Development challenges

93. In a situation where military incursions are a fact of daily life, physical infrastructure has suffered extensive destruction. At the same time the delivery of humanitarian relief is inhibited by the length of time spent travelling and the extra costs incurred because of complicated transport arrangements, including payment for storage of goods held up at ports. Movement restrictions inhibit movement of Palestinian and international staff and access negotiations consume time and resources. But even in such a difficult operating environment, development actors insist that development is possible.[187]

Physical destruction

94. Infrastructure provided by donors in the OPT has been damaged or destroyed during Israeli military incursions. Notable examples include Gaza Airport, Palestinian civil police camps and UNRWA schools and clinics.[188] The destruction is justified by Israel as a regrettable consequence of the conflict, but there are cases of wilful damage.[189] The EU estimates overall financial losses to be as much as €39,475,800.[190] The World Bank estimated that damage to the value of $930 million had been suffered by Palestinian infrastructure in the period up to the end of 2002.[191] In some cases donors continue to invest in physical infrastructure and agencies re-build what has been destroyed. In Jenin we visited an UNRWA project, aided by DFID, which was rebuilding 160 housing units. These buildings were destroyed through the Israeli military incursion against suspected armed groups hiding in Jenin early in April 2002. There is no guarantee that the buildings will not be destroyed again. We have also heard evidence of wilful destruction accompanying Israeli military incursions. The evidence of international NGOs echoes what we had heard from Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank:

"When you visit, as I and my colleagues have done, opticians' clinics, for example, run by the medical relief committees and you see all of their optics, all of their equipment purely for ophthalmic purposes completely destroyed as well as the office ransacked, and when you see photographs of directors of organisations with their faces burnt out and graffiti on the wall, you realise that this is not just about security".[192]

Non-physical development

95. Development and military occupation do not mix easily. As a result of the high risk of destruction, donors are reluctant to invest in physical infrastructure and this has shaped development approaches. The focus of the development has been on "soft" development and particularly on building human capacity.[193] Save the Children's midwife training programme in Gaza illustrates the point; by focussing on community, rather than hospital-based midwifery it is less affected by restrictions on movement. Multilateral agencies and NGOs persevere and find innovative ways of working around the difficulties. One witness stated:

"Long-term development is still possible and essential. The one point I want to accentuate here is that however difficult it is - and it is difficult - long term development is essential as long as it is coupled with active political engagement".[194]

DFID's work in the OPT is centred on institution building and enhancing the PA's institutional capacity. This is achieved largely through technical assistance projects. One good example of this would be DFID's key project which provides support to the PA's Negotiation Support Unit.

96. We visited the DFID-funded Hebron Water Access and Storage Project. The project, which aims to develop water and sanitation investments in small villages, is based on a DFID-piloted approach that has demonstrated water and sanitation investments as providing what are called 'turning point' assets, helping people out of chronic poverty. We also met one of DFID's partners, the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), a local NGO which works on drinking water access, water for agriculture and waste water recycling. The work of these projects demonstrates that traditional poverty-focussed development interventions are much needed and can be effective in the OPT. They are, however, vulnerable to the damage and destruction so characteristic of life in the OPT. Recently, following the destruction of US-built wells by the Israeli army, the US has sought assurances that US-built infrastructure will not be demolished in the future.[195] The UK Government should seek assurances that infrastructure will not be destroyed, not only for projects built by the UK and its partners, but for all projects vital to Palestinian communities.

Delivery of humanitarian relief

97. Importing food aid into the OPT has become increasingly difficult. Between September 2000 and February 2003, UNRWA incurred an extra $1.78 million in expenses as a result of extra costs in storage and other charges on the import of basic commodities.[196] UNRWA is currently importing 105,000 tonnes of basic food commodities into the OPT annually.[197] The overwhelming proportion of this, 90,000 tonnes, is part of UNRWA's emergency programme, while the remaining 15,000 tonnes provide for its regular programme of assistance.[198] Since the prohibition on UN lorries travelling in or out of Gaza in October 2000, commercial lorries have had to be hired for food distribution. Charges are also levied by the Israeli authorities on every lorry/container travelling in and out of Gaza, even when they are empty. The UN has a priority allocation which should make it easier for it to move containers in and out of Gaza—but these are unpredictable, they change daily and were recently reduced from 30 to 10 containers a day. Goods cannot be moved into the West Bank in Palestinian-licensed lorries, so it is necessary to use Israeli and Palestinian licensed lorries in tandem.[199] Extra costs are incurred as a result and, because Palestinian lorries are banned from using many of the bypass roads linking West Bank towns, long detours drive up running costs even more, as do the storage charges incurred when cargo is delayed. The international community must put pressure on the Israeli Authorities to lift, or at least ease restrictions on the import of goods into the OPT to facilitate delivery of food-aid to the population of Gaza and the West Bank. Limiting imports into the OPT cannot be justified as a security measure. Provided Israel can be sure weapons are not being imported into the OPT, there can be no justification for further restrictions.

Obstruction of humanitarian workers

98. Both international and Palestinian staff faces difficulties moving around. Evidence submitted jointly by International Service and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights outlines difficulties involving denial of visas for international staff for entry into Israel and the OPT.[200] This evidence also alleges "increasing levels of violence, including killings and injuries, directed at international staff by the Israeli military and other Israeli government agencies".[201] Aid agencies have issued warnings that they will withdraw from the OPT unless restrictions on their movement are eased and the IDF refrains from firing on relief workers.[202] There are channels of communication between development organisations and the Israeli Authorities but these have little effect on the movement restrictions faced by Palestinian staff.[203]

99. Physical risks are not the only obstacle which development workers face. Negotiating access for aid workers and for humanitarian goods takes up large amounts of time. International Agencies working in the OPT employ large numbers of Palestinian staff and both international and local staff face movement restrictions. Locally-engaged DFID staff encounters difficulties too. Adam Leach of Oxfam told us that "Our Palestinian staff often get treated badly, are made to wait unaccountably and arbitrarily for hours at checkpoints".[204] Some organisations such as USAID and the NGO network, the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), issue identity cards to international and Palestinian staff. These cards should ease their movement around the OPT, but this is not always the case.[205] Save the Children told us:

"Perhaps 50 or 60% of the working time is actually spent in this sort of negotiation. It is not facilitation; it is negotiation around blockage, both bureaucratic and physical, and it is extremely wearing, extremely demoralising and extremely wasteful".[206]

Dealing with destruction

100. Damage and destruction of donor-provided assistance needs to be recorded. Not only will this help future planning, it will enable representations to be made to Israel seeking either compensation, and/or assurances on protection of assets. Such information may have a role to play in final settlement negotiations between the two sides: the PA's Negotiation Affairs Department is already involved in documenting destruction and land appropriation relating to the construction of the barrier. HealthLink WorldWide have stated: "Findings need to be analysed, communicated and acted upon to ensure that there is flexibility in responding to unplanned needs and building a catalogue of evidence to use in future discussion with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities".[207] The EU has been efficient in documenting damage to projects. Although DFID does not directly invest in infrastructure development in the same way as the EU, it makes contributions to UNRWA and NGOs and they have reported losses in respect of equipment, buildings and staff time.[208] Some NGOs already try to document destruction and wastage and have made suggestions for the standardising this process.[209] NGOs such as ICAHD document demolition of Palestinian property. UN OCHA has a strong monitoring role in respect of checkpoints, movement restrictions, demolition and land confiscation. A future Palestinian state may be in a position to press for compensation or reparations, but this could only happen where destruction has been documented. DFID should investigate the possibility of its assistance to the PA being used for the systematic documentation of destruction.

101. So far there has been only one case in which compensation has been paid by Israel. This was for damage to the contents of a WFP warehouse.[210] Seeking compensation seems to have limited effect. It can also be difficult legally, because of the transfer of ownership of infrastructure from donor to recipient upon completion of the project. The European Commission told us that, in many cases, ownership of buildings and other infrastructure had been handed over to the PA:

"These projects have been transferred to the ownership of the final beneficiary, whether it is the Palestinian Authority or a public or private body and the EU or Member States no longer own these. So it is very difficult legally to see what redress could take place. Ownership has already been transferred." [211]

102. Rather than concentrating solely on compensation, donors that invest in physical infrastructure should seek guarantees that it will not be damaged. It has been reported in the press that the US Administration has sought such assurances following the destruction of new USAID-built wells in Gaza.[212] Dr Mohammed Shadid of the Welfare Association told us:

"The NGOs are very nervous about the destruction of their property and assets which enable them to deliver services to the community. They hope and expect the donor community to make representations to the Israeli government not to do it again, rather than compensation. They feel that this is far more effective than getting involved in claims and counterclaims".[213]

Jeff Halper pointed out that there has never been any compensation for Palestinians whose homes have been demolished or land confiscated. It is therefore unlikely that assurances could ever be obtained to prevent further demolition. This heightens the need for systematic recording of land appropriation and house demolition, as the PA may want to seek compensation at the point of final negotiations.


103. In Jerusalem we met MASHAV, DFID's Israeli equivalent. MASHAV have an impressive range of technical expertise and are particularly strong in the area of water sourcing and irrigation. They are involved in projects in Africa and Central Asia. MASHAV officials highlighted their strengths in combating desertification and emphasised the relevance of their expertise for the Palestinian Territories and Jordan. Although MASHAV's remit does not extend to development in the OPT, before the intifada, MASHAV ran training programmes involving more than a thousand Palestinians every year. This was seen as a way of strengthening the peace process: taking people with common interests and encouraging them to work together. Since the recent escalation of military occupation all cross-community activities involving MASHAV have stopped. We would like to see this kind of co-operation encouraged during any negotiations, not least because MASHAV's expertise could make a contribution towards building a future Palestinian state as a viable, stable neighbour for Israel.

187   Qq 3, 79 Back

188   Ev 121  Back

189   Q 91, Ev 88, Ev 106, Ev 121, Ev 130, Ev 173, Ev 191, Ev 232, Ev 256, Ev 289  Back

190   Ev 125 Back

191   World Bank, Op. Cit. May 2003, page 19 Back

192   Q 91 Back

193   Q 79 Back

194   Q 79 Back

195   'Israel Destroys US-built wells', The Independent, 5 November 2003  Back

196   Ev 267 Back

197   Ibid. Back

198   Ibid. Back

199   Ev 267 Back

200   Ev 137-8 Back

201   Ev 135 Back

202   Israel army warned by UN for shooting at aid workers, The Independent, 28 November 2003, Aid donors warn Israel on occupied territories, Financial Times, 28 November 2003 Back

203   Q 84 Back

204   Q 84 Back

205   Meetings in OPT, October 2003 Back

206   Q 84 Back

207   Ev 130 Back

208   Ev 121-5 Back

209   Ev 130 Back

210   Q 50 Back

211   Ibid. Back

212   Israel destroys US-built wells, The Independent, 5 November 2003 Back

213   Q 91 Back

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