Select Committee on International Development Second Report

6 The donor/development response

104. The post-Oslo period brought with it a new level of donor involvement in the OPT. The international community re-engaged in a significant way once there appeared to be the prospect of peace and a timeframe in which donors could work together to lay the foundations of a Palestinian state.[214] As a result, $2 billion of assistance was pledged at a donor conference in Washington in October 1993. This chapter examines the way donors, and in particular DFID, have responded to the constraints of an extremely difficult operating environment. We examine the strategy DFID pursues and make suggestions to improve the effectiveness of aid.

Support to UNRWA and NGOs

105. Almost half of DFID's funding to the Palestinians is given in the form of multilateral support, the bulk of which goes to UNRWA's budget. The UK Government has provided core funding to UNRWA ever since its creation. DFID's contributions have risen over the last five years in tandem with measures to encourage UNRWA to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. The UK is now UNRWA's second largest bilateral donor after the USA. Despite this, money, or lack of it, remains UNRWA's perennial challenge. Contributions to the 2003 budget were predicted to fall short by around $25m. In 2002/03 DFID contributed £18.8 million to UNRWA and expects to have contributed a further £19 million by the end of 2003/04.[215] In the same period, DFID gave £7.5 million bilaterally through NGOs and is expected to give £7.4 million by the end of the financial year.[216]


106. Support to UNRWA contributes to emergency service delivery and also longer-term development projects in areas inhabited by registered refugees. UNRWA sees its role as delivering services to registered refugees, some of whom are now second or third generation. The term "refugee camp" is widely used but is in many ways inaccurate. The camps we saw were indistinguishable from neighbouring residential areas. We were concerned to explore the practicalities of this international agency that provides relief for the 1948 refugees and examine if it is providing a service that could be carried out by other agencies, including the PA.

107. In the immediate post-Oslo period, donors continued channelling funding for refugees through UNRWA than through the PA. During the last three years of closure the PA has simply not had the capacity, or been in a legal or political position, to take over UNRWA's responsibilities for service delivery. Any cessation of UNRWA's activities is therefore, in the current climate, neither practical nor advisable. Nevertheless, in the longer term, the PA must take over the responsibility that currently rests with UNRWA in respect of the people living within the OPT. As preparation for this, without delay, there should be greater co-ordination between the PA, UNRWA, WFP and all agencies in the delivery of services to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In the short term, UNRWA and the PA have very different mandates. As long as the refugee issue remains to be settled, UNRWA should remain in operation. Furthermore, UNRWA officials we spoke to saw their organisation as the main bulwark against the Israelis' further "immiserisation" of the Palestinian people. It was, in their view, harder for the Israelis to impose collective punishments on Palestinians who came under the protection of a UN Agency rather than the PA.

108. We believe that the UN Secretary-General needs to improve co-ordination between the multitude of UN Agencies working in Gaza and the West Bank. It is costly, inefficient and a waste of donor's money for UNRWA to be delivering humanitarian aid to those Palestinians who are "refugees" while WFP delivers similar aid to "non-refugee" Palestinians living nearby. Equally, it is ludicrous for UNRWA to build and run a school for "refugee" children only streets away from schools funded by other donors and run by the Palestinian Authority for "non-refugee" children. There remains a political need to identify who are "refugees" and their descendants within the OPTs and outside, until such time as their final status is agreed, but it makes no sense to have two donor-funded UN agencies maintaining separate purchasing organisations, warehouses and distribution networks. As a first step UNRWA and WFP should reach agreement to divide the distribution of humanitarian aid within the OPTs geographically, with one agency supplying aid to "refugees" and "non-refugees" alike in some areas of the territories and the other agency in the other areas."

109. UNRWA was constituted, by a United Nations mandate, to deal with the plight of the 1948 refugees. As such it has both international legitimacy as well as a responsibility for the welfare of the refugees, until such a time that there is a political settlement to the issue. The role of UNRWA is continually affirmed by the international community through its renewal of UNRWA's mandate through the UN. UNRWA is not a political organisation, it provides for refugees, but it is not their advocate in the sense that UNHCR might be. We were told, admittedly by UNRWA itself, that most refugees trusted UNRWA more than they did the PA. This may well be so, but it is more than likely an indication of the broader credibility problems of the PA rather than the result of UNRWA's comparative effectiveness in service delivery.

110. The PA stated early on in its life that it would not address refugee issues other than as part of peace process negotiations on a final settlement. Under the terms of the Oslo agreement, the PA has agreed to represent the refugees as part of the final status negotiations, which have not yet occurred. Until that time, they cannot legally take over the humanitarian work that UNRWA carries out. The refugees' UN status is not negotiable by the PA, and their future, which is still to be negotiated, will only be conceded as part of a settlement of their rights under international law.

111. UNRWA has come in for criticism on a number of fronts.[217] Some criticisms of UNRWA have a political undertone and some are legitimate criticisms of the way in which this large UN agency operates. While there may be legitimate questions surrounding UNRWA's continuing role, it is the only Agency with the operational capacity to provide services to the 50% of the Palestinian population who are registered as refugees (especially as it provides these same services to Palestinian refugees in registered camps in Lebanon Jordan and Syria). Indeed UNRWA provides a service to refugees in the West Bank and Gaza that both international law and international agencies argue is the responsibility of Israel to provide.


112. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the OPT have a strong history of involvement in service delivery and continued to play a crucial role after Oslo and during the intifada. As the situation in the West Bank deteriorated, the international community responded with aid packages. These were largely channelled through International NGOs and CSOs as a way of ensuring that the resources reached those communities hardest hit. The Welfare Association Consortium notes that: "The NGO sector today represents a significant and capable service deliverer to the local Palestinian population".[218] DFID works with both local and international NGOs providing financial and technical support.[219]

113. NGOs form part of a Palestinian democratic tradition and are seen by donors as a mechanism for "deepening the democratisation process".[220] NGO and CSO involvement in promoting community participation in local level planning and implementation can help foster communication between the PA and the Palestinian population. At the moment United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the PA's Ministry of Planning are working on the Palestinian Participatory Poverty Assessment, which will identify needs and should enhance the PA's attention to poverty alleviation.[221] NGOs need to rise to the challenge of "strengthening links and establishing a participatory mechanism in order to articulate the needs and required development programs of the community".[222] But in so doing NGOs have to remain accountable to the people they seek to represent. NGO witnesses recognised the need:

"As professional, proficient development organisations, we all recognise and have increasingly recognised over the last decade or more, the importance of effective consultation and participation with the communities and the people that we are working with, whether it is with organisations or community groups. We recognise that you do not deliver effective aid, whether it is emergency aid or development, without that. So we certainly emphasize, in the partnerships that we establish, the need to talk, listen, understand and to develop a bottom-up approach to the work that we are doing".[223]

114. In delivering services, all too often there has been competition between NGOs and the PA and the relationship has been tainted with mutual suspicion and political difference. Nevertheless, there has been excellent practical co-operation between the PA and NGOs at the sectoral level (especially in health).[224] PA Ministers and officials voiced concerns about the shift on the part of donors to fund what they termed NGOs' "academic" activities, such as democracy-building and governance, rather than the provision of essential services.[225] This concern is understandable in light of the need for service provision, but it is hard not to sense defensiveness on the part of the PA.[226] Given the PA's poor past record on governance we would have preferred to hear it welcome the NGOs' switch in emphasis to strengthening civil society. NGOs have themselves been sceptical of the PA's willingness to involve them and make itself more accountable to the Palestinian population. We see a role for NGOs in both service delivery and democratisation. Obviously the focus should not suddenly be shifted to the detriment of service delivery. But if NGOs are to have an increasing role in "democracy building" they have to demonstrate that they are representative of the interest groups they aim to serve.

The Civil Society Challenge Fund

115. Our inquiry revealed some problems in the technicalities of providing DFID funding to NGOs. Healthlink Worldwide commented that:

"the DFID West Asia desk…. have staff and an office in the field, an intimate relationship and knowledge of the programme on the ground, discretion over larger budgets, and can respond to emergency situations. The DFID Civil Society Challenge Fund (CSCF), East Kilbride, does not have staff in country, is working through a decentralised structure, has limited links with the DFID country office and the London West Asia desk, and is restricted and bound to the project grant contract."[227]

Healthlink argue that the two distinct structures offer very different experiences when it comes to the practical implementation of projects on the ground, and have very different capacities and mechanisms with which to take prompt and informed decisions in response to the changeable nature of the complex emergency situation in the OPT.[228] The Civil Society Challenge Fund needs to be able to respond with appropriate flexibility to the funding needs of projects delivering emergency services in a situation of military occupation. We were reassured by DFID's statement that:

"MENAD [Middle East and North Africa Department] and CSCF have experienced similar implementation challenges during the past few years, in adapting projects that were designed pre-Intifada to a conflict environment. DFID is sympathetic to the particular challenges of working in the Palestinian Territory, and stands ready to consider—within budgetary constraints—requests from partners to adapt project activities and timescales. MENAD and ICSD [Information and Civil Society Department] consult on issues of operational policy which affect all DFID-funded NGOs working in the Palestinian Territory… We are looking to strengthen our relationship with NGOs through the recently established DFID-NGO Platform Working Group. This will involve DFID staff from ICSD and MENAD, and will provide a forum for discussing issues of joint concern and interest".[229]

Support for the Palestinian Authority

116. DFID provides support to the Palestinian Authority largely through technical assistance and capacity building programmes. This support was valued at £6.7 million in 2002/03, rising to £11 million in the period 2003/04.[230] This rise in support demonstrates how DFID concentrated on PA institution building as part of its strategy to focus on "institutional strengthening rather that the development of infrastructure".[231] This is motivated partly by a reluctance to invest in infrastructure which the IDF might destroy, but also in the hope that—in enhancing the PA as a credible, effective institution—DFID is supporting the peace progress and assisting the preparation of the PA for eventual statehood.[232] DFID's Director of the Europe, Middle East and Americas Division told us:

"Without policy change and political change, you are never really going to be able to tackle some of the major aspects of poverty. So, when DFID looks at poverty alleviation, it will take into account the policy governance aspect as well as meeting the needs and service delivery". [233]

Capacity building and technical assistance

117. One of DFID's larger projects is its support to the PA's Negotiation Support Unit. Its objective is to provide professional legal, technical and communications advice to the PA in preparation for, and during, permanent status negotiations with Israel. As such it funds staff salaries and equipment. Since the collapse of formal negotiations two years ago, the NSU has broadened its role by seeking to encourage the resumption of negotiations and contributing to a variety of diplomatic peace initiatives. DFID's support for the NSU is a practical and tangible way in which development can support the peace process. We believe there is considerable scope for the expansion of DFID's and other donors' work in institution building within the PA and in the municipalities. Such money as the international community, including DFID, is spending on improving "good governance" and capacity building within the PA is money well spent.

European Union assistance

118. The EU began providing assistance to the Palestinians in 1971 through support to UNRWA's budget. The PA is also eligible for support through the Community's main financial instrument for the Euro-Mediterranean region, MEDA.[234] From June 2001, a significant part of EC assistance was provided in the form of direct budget assistance to the PA: "directed towards securing expenditures such as public service salaries, social, educational, health and other core functions of the PA".[235] The conditions which the EU imposed on the funding required the PA to carry out concrete reform measures leading to:

"reinforced transparency in the PA's public finances; a consolidation of all sources of PA revenue in a single treasury account monitored by the International Monetary Fund; a freeze on public sector hiring; adoption of the Law on the Independence of the Judiciary; adoption of the Basic Law; reinforced internal financial control; strengthened external audit capacities".[236]

Budget support

119. In 2002 $464 million of donor support was disbursed against the PA budget.[237] Approximately $400 million of disbursements are planned this year but the PA estimates its external budget support requirements at $535 million.[238] DFID does not provide direct budget support to the PA. However, the UK indirectly contributes to budget support through the European Union's contributions.

120. The move towards providing budget support to the PA was triggered by the GOl's decision to withhold tax revenues due to the PA. EU budget support prevented the total economic collapse that would have resulted from the PA losing 60% of its revenue.[239] It was intended by the EU as an emergency measure, to alleviate the immediate problems of service provision caused by Israel's withholding of revenues, and to maintain the PA as a viable interlocutor. On top of these objectives the EU has used the conditions and monitoring requirements that accompany budget support as a lever to encourage reforms and improve standards of governance, transparency and accountability in the management of public finances.[240] Since the resumption of revenue transfer by the GOI, the EU has changed its method of budget support from monthly payments into a single treasury account to new targeted assistance focussing on the private sector and social services. [241]

121. Budget support to the PA works towards the strategic development objectives of providing poverty alleviation to people through the salaries they receive, whilst simultaneously building institutions. The European Commission told us:

"Since half of all employment in the West Bank and Gaza is directly dependent on the Palestinian Authority I think that is why the World Bank have said they have found that budget support that was provided during that period was an effective means of reaching the poorest parts of the population as well as trying to make progress in the reform of the Palestinian Authority". [242]

Providing salary support delivers assistance to more than just the direct recipient. The World Bank's analysis showed that a civil service salary was likely to support an extended family household. According to Bank estimates, cancelling budget support could have pushed a further 100,000 people into poverty.[243]

122. Using budget support for poverty alleviation through salary payment in this way is highly unusual, particularly as some of those on the PA's payroll are not working. This is largely but not always the result of poor management; the civil police, for example, cannot perform all their functions because of Israeli restrictions. In this context, therefore, budget support constitutes a form of emergency assistance. Some have suggested that the provision of assistance in this way is creating a dependency culture.[244] This is a legitimate concern and one that must be considered when planning long-term strategy for development in the OPT. In the current situation of economic collapse, wage payment maintained by budget support, is an effective method of emergency poverty alleviation.

123. Budget support is usually provided only if a donor is satisfied by the recipient government's focus on sound financial management as well as on poverty reduction. The PA has hardly met these criteria in the past. Support is, however, tied to certain conditions. In the Palestinian example these relate to the reform programme (Annex). There has been a campaign in the European Parliament to require greater transparency of the funding given to the PA. This is motivated by concerns that aid money might be used not for poverty reduction but in support of terrorist activities against Israel.[245] This issue was raised in most of the submissions we received from Israeli sources and from some Jewish organisations. Dr Samuels, International Relations Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, also told us that:

"projects funded by the EU, such as Palestinian Television, which is broadcasting hate, which is broadcasting anti-Semitism…..EU-funded school texts and schoolteachers who promote hate and the denial of Israel and the denial of the Holocaust; EU-funded websites…".[246]

Transparency and monitoring

124. The European Commission has conducted its own investigations into the allegations that the funds which it provides to the PA have been misused; it has found no evidence:

"We have done a number of things in response to this… We have looked at every one of the documents presented to us…..we have not found yet—and I have to say 'yet' because we are continuing to look at these things—a case of money being diverted for terrorist purposes. There is an investigation by the European Anti Fraud Office under way but I can give you no results from that yet. There is also a Committee of the European Parliament which is looking into this, which meets every month, and they have not yet produced their report, but we are obviously cooperating with all these inquiries as well as the ones we have launched ourselves."[247]

EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten has also stated that the documents provided to the EU by the GOI have not offered any proof that known members of terrorist groups are on the PA's payroll.[248] Although the international community cannot check every person on the PA's payroll, it has applied pressure for measures to increase the Ministry of Finance's control over the payroll. We are reassured by the EU's investigations, but the EU and other donors must ensure that there is no opportunity given for justified suspicions to be raised. The use of development aid to the PA, whether from EU, or elsewhere, must be fully, openly and transparently accounted for.

125. In addition to the EU's own investigations and the reform programme to which the budget support is tied, the EU's assistance is heavily monitored. As the European Commission told us, the IMF is involved in aggregating and supervising expenditure by the PA.[249] It has also worked closely with the Palestinian Ministry of Finance and has a programme to make sure that expenditure is subject to proper control. This involves the presence of 54 auditors in PA Ministries.[250] This level of monitoring does not come without cost; reporting requirements place a heavy administrative burden on the PA whose staff and resources are needed to cope with the humanitarian crisis.

DFID and budget support

126. DFID is considering the case for budget support to the PA[251]. The criteria which it would normally use to assess suitability for budget support are that:

"A thorough evaluation of public financial management and accountability systems, and associated risks, has been carried out; The government has a credible programme to improve standards of these systems; The potential development benefits justify the risks, taking account of any safeguards that can be put in place to buttress and develop these systems; These assessments are explicitly recorded as part of the decision-making process to provide assistance." [252]

Recent PA reforms have been positively assessed by the IMF and all funding to the PA is now consolidated through the Palestinian Investment Fund. DFID is also, in conjunction with the World Bank, carrying out a "Country Financial Accountability Assessment" (CFAA) which will provide important information about the strengths and weaknesses of PA systems and identify where further capacity building might be needed".[253]

127. However, budget support to the PA would have to be considered as a special case. It is unlikely to take the form that it does in other countries, where there is relatively little direct monitoring of funds once the have been disbursed. Hilary Benn MP recognised that:

"there would be reservations about providing direct budget support in the form that we do with other countries, because we have to go through a process of satisfying ourselves that the systems and structures are in place to account for how that money is spent, and it would not be right to do that without having gone through that process in relation to the Palestinian Authority."[254]

DFID is therefore considering the PA as a special case and is considering earmarked budget support so as to provide greater accountability:

"We are, as we speak, looking at earmarking for the first time some budget support which would be used to pay off £5 million worth of the Palestinian Authority's VAT debts to UNRWA… By using the mechanism earmarked 'direct budget support' in effect you have a way of absolutely satisfying yourself that the money has gone to UNRWA, that it has wiped off some of the debts and therefore it has the effect of being budget support without raising the difficulties of systems and tracking the money through."[255]

The US has provided support to the PA in the form of earmarked funds for the payment of bills (electricity) which the PA owed the GOI.[256] This method of financial support to the PA carries no risk of diversion or misuse of funds. On the other hand, it fails to provide the benefits which budget support is intended to bring—of enhancing the PA's own financial management systems.

128. DFID would usually provide direct budgetary assistance in support of a country's poverty reduction strategy. But the PA has been criticised for its lack of a poverty focus. DFID has provided substantial support to the PA in the form of technical assistance. DFID could usefully provide greater levels of technical assistance and in particular could support the Palestinian Authority in developing poverty alleviation policies and enhancing Palestinian involvement in development planning.

Co-ordinated monitoring

129. The conditionalities on aid and monitoring requirements which accompany EU budget support place a heavy administrative burden on the capacity of an already weakened PA. If DFID were to move towards providing budget support it should investigate the possibilities of a unified monitoring system with other donors. Failure to do so could result in the PA being faced with managing a range of donor conditions and monitoring requirements. If development assistance is to be efficient and effective, aid must be delivered without putting an unbearable strain on an institution with weak capacity.

Donor harmonisation

130. There are numerous donors operating in the OPT.[257] The architecture for the co-ordination of their work is complex. The main mechanisms are the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and the Local Aid Co-ordination Committee, which focus on policy and operational issues respectively. There are also a number of sector-focussed donor groups working under this framework.[258] International NGOs are co-ordinated through two fora: the Jerusalem-based Association of International Development Agencies and the UK-based Palestine Platform.[259] Both of these have regular contact with bilateral donors.[260] Local NGOs are co-ordinated through a variety of networks such as PNGO Network, which is a voluntary cluster of Palestinian NGOs.[261]


131. The Special Coordinator provides overall guidance to United Nations programmes and agencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both those with representation in the field and those based abroad. Its role is to facilitate co-ordination within the United Nations family to ensure that the organisation's overall approach to socio-economic development is integrated and unified, and is consistent with the priorities identified by the PA. Given that UNSCO is the organisation at the forefront of co-ordination, we were surprised at its relatively low-key role in this area. UN OCHA does an excellent job in monitoring facts on the ground, as well as helping communication within the development community. Yet it does not have the mechanisms for reporting back to the Secretary General that UNSCO has. UNSCO has an operational capacity in its reporting structures, and thus is well placed to co-ordinate reports from other international donors, agencies, and NGOs about the monitoring that they have engaged in, as well as the results of that monitoring. In some ways it has been undermined as an organisation because it has not had a strong relationship with the Israeli Authorities, and it has a small staff at present. We discuss in paragraphs 141- 144 the need for a respected international observer to monitor the situation in the OPT and suggest a stronger role for UNSCO in this area, with an enhanced staff.

Scope for improvement

132. Our visit to the OPT demonstrated to us the difficulties of co-ordination. We saw a multiplicity of agencies, each of which was aware of the work their counterparts were undertaking. But we saw little evidence of a co-ordinated strategy. At a roundtable meeting with UN Agencies we heard about the work of the different agencies in various sectors—but there seemed to be no overall guiding strategy harmonising the work that was being done. But greater harmonisation is important to ensure aid effectiveness; this is particularly so in a situation where there is a complex web of service delivery such as in the OPT. Hilary Benn MP agreed that:

"we need to be sure that we are doing all that we possibly can to address the question of effective co-ordination so that we get maximum impact for the money that we spend" .[262]

133. Strategic harmonisation is also desirable in a context where there is such discussion of the role of aid and of the dynamic between aid and the wider political situation. DFID have stated that:

"Donor co-ordination is generally strong in terms of information exchange and avoiding duplication of effort. More work is required in terms of harmonising aid delivery mechanisms and joint strategising".[263]

DFID considers that its strategic vision is greatly influenced by shared analysis with donor partners and project partners. Complete harmonisation of donor assistance would be difficult, however. The Secretary of State's comments identify the potential difficulties:

"Part of the difficulty is that, of course, different aid agencies operate in different ways and have different reporting requirements and some are more relaxed about forms of support which others would not be prepared to contemplate".[264]

Donors operate in different ways but co-ordination is necessary to ensure that both development and emergency relief are delivered effectively. The OPT receives a large amount of donor aid. What this aid can achieve would be maximised if all donors can work towards an overall strategy for development. The best way of achieving this would be through a Palestinian-led process of development planning.

Palestinian-led development

134. A recent report on donor co-ordination pointed out that more could be done to improve the input from the Palestinians and the PA in development prioritisation.[265] We were concerned, for example, to learn that only three out of 190 UNDP in-country staff is Palestinians. This was recognised by Hilary Benn MP: "There has been an issue about effective co-ordination on the PA side and the changes of government and personnel do not necessarily assist in that process".[266] Strategic harmonisation, involving donors and the PA might be facilitated by donor support for a Palestinian development plan. This could be realised through the Palestinian medium-term stabilisation and development strategy which was presented to donors in December 2003.[267] DFID has said that the strategy: "intends to improve its dialogue with donors about their respective contributions to that vision. The donor community, including DFID, is supportive of this initiative".[268] Any such strategy will need to address the weakness of the PA's poverty focus.[269]

135. Production of the stabilisation and recovery strategy had been delayed because of a lack of capacity in the PA Ministry of Planning. The PA's budget deficit means that it has no funds to implement its plan and will be completely dependent on donor support to realise its objectives. Planning and strategy may be an area in which DFID could provide support to the PA through technical assistance and capacity building. DFID's flagship project supporting the PA's Negotiation Support Unit may be a model for further development intervention.

Communication with the Israeli Authorities

136. Negotiation of access arrangements and obstruction of aid workers and humanitarian goods can take up to 60% of aid agencies' time.[270] The channels of communication between aid agencies and the Israeli Authorities include the Task Force on Project Implementation (TFPI). The TFPI was established by the Joint Liaison Committee (JLC) as a representative mechanism of the international community for ensuring effective implementation of donor-funded projects in the West Bank and Gaza. The TFPI is comprised of UNSCO, World Bank, European Commission and USAID, with a six months rotating chairmanship. The TFPI reports that in the last two years the operating environment has become increasingly difficult for humanitarian workers in the OPT and this has necessitated increasing contact with the Israeli Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

137. In a report to the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee in February 2003 the TFPI reported "the imposition of serious obstacles placed in the path of an effective and efficient delivery of humanitarian and emergency assistance".[271] The main areas of difficulty are unreliability and non-uniformity of humanitarian access, lack of staff security because of non-recognition of international humanitarian symbols, lengthy and costly delays of import of humanitarian goods reducing the impact of the aid dollar. Whilst the TFPI now has regular contact with COGAT, it still faces problems. The methods established by COGAT frequently require personal intervention by COGAT, TFPI, or donor staff to resolve problems, placing tremendous strain on all the organizations involved. Agreements for alleviating problems are often informal and ad hoc. Furthermore the authority of COGAT is circumscribed and the interactions between COGAT and the IDF are not always well co-ordinated; this has particular impact on issues pertaining to safety of international personnel and consistent access of personnel to the Palestinian population. [272]

138. After talking to humanitarian agencies and NGOs we discovered that that they do not all use the TFPI as a channel of communication. Some NGOs lobby the TFPI on general access issues via the Association of International Development Agencies. Others have direct contact with the Israeli Authorities—though we were told that this policy does not necessarily lead to the lifting of restrictions.[273] Some development agencies refuse to negotiate with the Israeli Authorities as a matter of principle, on the grounds that free access should automatically be provided under international humanitarian law. The reality of the situation is that there is an ad hoc system of negotiation whereby development staff uses whatever contacts or means they have at their disposal to facilitate their work. While we commend the work of the TFPI, we are concerned that it is under strain and has difficulty undertaking such a huge and sensitive task.

139. During our visit we met a representative of the COGAT. We were told of the efforts made to improve the procedures for humanitarian access. COGAT assured us that the delay of ambulances at checkpoints was a rarity, despite the fact that we had seen three such incidents in the few days we had been there. Although COGAT seemed to have the will to make changes to procedures to facilitate aid worker access, this was not borne out by the situation on the ground. International Agencies have complained that despite numerous meetings with the military authorities, they are still subjected to unpredictable and sudden changes on the ground, the purpose of which is rarely explained."[274] The TFPI is reported as saying: "Israeli promises of improved procedures had so far failed to filter down to the army in the occupied territories."[275]

140. Time spent in negotiation with the Israeli authorities has an impact on the effectiveness of development assistance in the OPT. In light of the continuing negotiations between Israeli Authorities and International agencies and the discrepancy between high level military policy and the on-the-ground reality, we consider that details of cases of obstruction of humanitarian workers should be routinely documented. This would provide the necessary information to the Israeli authorities about where the blocks are in terms of policy filtering down to soldiers at checkpoints. Although, ultimately we believe that a relaxation of Israeli restrictions is required, these measures may help to ease the process until such a time as restrictions are lifted. The USA should use the leverage it has with Israel to facilitate delivery of humanitarian relief.

Facilitating better standards of living

141. Improving the situation of Palestinians will require more than representations to ensure humanitarian access. There is clearly a need for a respected international interlocutor to negotiate with the IDF to try to ensure that the day to day conditions for occupied Palestinians are as humane as possible. At present no one is undertaking this task. UNRWA sees its role simply as meeting the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestine "refugee" population. UNSCO see their role as attempting to take forward the "peace process" and the ICRC have made it clear to the GOI that they intend to wind down their activities in the OPT, and thus they clearly do not see it as part of their role to seek to ensure that the IDF honour and follow international law as set out in the Geneva Conventions and elsewhere.

142. There is a multiplicity of UN Agencies and NGOs, all seeking to deliver a variety of humanitarian and other services to the Palestinian community, but none of these are in a position to negotiate successfully with the IDF or the GOI more humane treatment for occupied Palestinians, and indeed themselves, in reality, are subject to exactly the same restrictions of movement imposed upon Palestinians.

143. The fact is that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have no state, neither de jure, nor de facto; no citizenship; no rights; no remedies, and no one from the international community taking the responsibility to seek to ensure that an occupied people in these circumstances are treated as humanely as possible. Part of the reason why nobody is undertaking the task of acting as an intermediary to ensure humane conditions in the OPT is that it is a notoriously difficult job. UN representatives have been sent to the OPT.[276] UNSCO already reports on the situation in the OPT to the UN Secretary General. But we believe there is a noticeable gap where there should be coherent, high level monitoring of the extent to which the occupation is being carried out in accordance with international law. This is a task too large and sensitive to be carried out solely by the TFPI. It requires high level involvement of a respected interlocutor with the authority needed to be effective. We would have expected UNSCO, with its permanent presence in the OPT, to have a stronger role in monitoring the living conditions of Palestinians under occupation and acting to facilitate improvements. Unless the Israeli Authorities offer full co-operation, this is a difficult, if not impossible task.

144. UNSCO's authority, role and resources need to be strengthened. In order for UNSCO to be effective the international community needs put pressure on the Israeli Authorities to cooperate. In addition to strengthening the role of UNSCO and the Special Co-ordinator, it is time for the Secretary-General of the United Nations—with the authority of the Security Council—to appoint a further Humanitarian Envoy or Special Representative to undertake the specific task of ensuring that the occupation is as humane as possible and that there is a coherent and co-ordinated international scrutiny of what is taking place in the OPT. Such an appointment will need to be accompanied by provision of the necessary money, materials and resources.

Advocacy and political pressure

145. Development workers in the OPT all stressed that improvements would only follow an end to the closures. DFID states in its written evidence: "What is most needed to reduce poverty is relaxation of Israeli curfews, closures and checkpoints, and eventual withdrawal so that the economy can grow again".[277] During our visit, and in oral evidence, we have heard repeatedly that only an end to the occupation and its accompanying policy of closure will deliver poverty alleviation and development in the OPT. The World Bank has highlighted the futility of donors pouring more money into the OPT.[278] What is really needed to improve the conditions of Palestinians and to provide an enabling environment for development is an easing of the restrictions of closure, and eventually an end to the occupation.

146. Unusually for us, during our visit to the West Bank, no one asked us for money! Neither the PA, nor the NGOs, nor the UN Agencies saw their problems as rooted in a shortage of funding. But they all asked for advocacy and political pressure to end the occupation. UN OCHA put it best when it described the situation in the OPT as a massive humanitarian operation to tackle the consequences of, not a flood or famine, but a man-made disaster. It argues that in such a situation, tackling the cause of the problem is a necessary part of the humanitarian package. As a result of the highly political environment and the need for political solutions, there is greater emphasis on advocacy amongst the development community.[279] Advocacy involves "an opportunity to allow people, who find it difficult or do not have the opportunity to speak for themselves, to speak with them and on their behalf".[280] On the whole, development assistance has generally followed a principle of neutrality. But advocacy carries with it the connotation of representation and acting on behalf of one side. Some evidence submitted has been heavily critical of International NGOs and their role in advocacy because it has been seen in some quarters to result inevitably in NGO politicisation.[281]

147. Although there is a tension between advocacy and neutrality, given that there is such a widespread recognition of the need for political solutions, and that the basic rights of Palestinians are not addressed in any political negotiation, and given the destruction of Palestinian political and civic infrastructure and institutions, it is difficult to see how development organisations can avoid being involved in advocacy. In the OPT their involvement is a product of the intensely political situation in which they find themselves operating. Advocacy is, therefore, an element of many development organisations' strategy. This is not a new phenomenon: development organisations working in other conflict areas have found themselves playing a role in advocacy in situations where political solutions are the only mechanism for preventing suffering. We think that on the whole those organisations involved in advocacy have struck the right balance and have managed to hold the line between factual representation and bias.

Global media

148. The Palestinian message is failing to reach the international community. It is easy to understand and feel the horror of suicide attacks, but more difficult to understand the conditions of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Suicide attacks have a profound effect on perceptions of the conflict. The effects of military occupation and obstacles to development faced by the Palestinians are more complex and do not receive the appropriate level of media attention. A suicide attack reported in the world press damages opinion of Palestinians and images shown on television of rallies at funerals reinforce negative perceptions. Negative stereotypes, such as the following, are on the increase:

"Dominant cultural motivations [of Arab societies] are honour, shame, avoidance of humiliation, and retribution for actual or perceived affronts. Unlike modern Europe, the Arab world fully approves of violence as a primary means of resolving conflict…"[282]

149. We are concerned about the rising tide of anti-Islamism, or anti-Arabism, characteristic of such perceptions. All actors need to remind themselves of the need to avoid anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism, as well as stereotyping Arab or Jewish societies. International agencies that are engaged in dealing with the crisis and are witnesses to many of the problems Palestinians face could do much more to convey these facts, in an authoritative and non-polemical manner, to the media and the general public in the UK and Europe. An awareness programme of this kind, by neutral witnesses, and carried out by NGOs, donors, and the NSU, could provide a much-needed education of the public as to the everyday realities in the OPT.

Advocacy by the UK Government

150. The UK Government regards the building of the separation barrier on Palestinian land and the expansion of settlements as illegal.[283] We agree with the Government's position and urge it to be more forceful in its advocacy on these issues. We see DFID as having an advocacy role to play within the UK Government. The Secretary of State assured us that co-ordination with both the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry was good.[284] It is essential that the Government's position is harmonised across departments and is consistent with all the parties' obligations under international law and agreements.

Economic pressure

151. As we have mentioned earlier, there are economic levers at donors' disposal, which may not have been used to full effect. European trade agreements could be used to exert economic pressure on Israeli Authorities. War on Want go so far as to suggest:

"A trade policy could provide a key mechanism for exerting pressure on Israel. A full economic embargo would be in line with Article 2 of the EU-Israeli Association Agreement which states that trade restrictions can be enforced in deference to a country's poor human rights record".[285]

Thus far there has been a reluctance to resort to this kind of pressure and we agree that it is an extreme measure. We have already quoted Hilary Benn MP's comments on this subject in paragraph 87.[286] The European Commission told us:

"The trade balance with Israel is very, very heavily in our favour. So when you say, 'What is the benefit or impact on Israel of these arrangements', at the moment the European Union is doing quite well out of them both in terms of industrial trade and agricultural trade…. So I am not sure what would be the result of disrupting these or interrupting these. It may actually harm the European Union more than it harms Israel" [287]

We do not agree with this approach. We believe in principle that where a sufficiently egregious case of human rights abuse has been established as to warrant economic sanctions, the EU should not be deterred from imposing them simply because the trade balance with the country concerned is in its favour. We urge the UK Government to take up this point with the European Commission and with its EU partners.

152. However, the EU has successfully exerted pressure on Israel to stop mislabelling products produced in Israeli settlements. As settlements are regarded as illegal by the UK Government and the EU, settlement produce is not permitted to benefit from the preferential terms of its trade agreement.[288] In the past the GOI has labelled settlement products as originating in Israel, rather than the settlements.[289] As the European Commission told us:

"The action we have taken jointly with Member States' customs administrations is to impose duties unilaterally on these products to prevent them from having preferential access to the market". [290]

In November 2003 the Israeli Trade Minister announced that Israel was backing down.[291] Some EU countries had imposed additional tariffs on exports from Israel because of the difficulty of determining the origin of the exported products. In future all goods exported from Israel and the OPT will be origin labelled. We welcome the change of policy on the part of the GOI. In this case economic pressure was successful. However, there remains a risk of goods being falsely labelled as produced in Israel rather than in the settlements. We trust that HM Customs will maintain a close watch for false origin labelling

Subsidising the occupation?

153. The World Bank estimates that since the start of the current intifada in 2002: "donors have provided about US$315 per person per year, an unprecedented level of financial commitment" to the Palestinians in the OPT.[292] Since the re-occupation and closure of the Palestinian Territories, development agencies have been forced to shift more and more towards emergency humanitarian relief.[293] The increasing levels of emergency assistance required has led some to suggest that by staving off humanitarian catastrophe with aid, the international community is, in effect, subsidising Israel's occupation. A recent article in the Israeli press highlights that: "Had Israel been required to fulfil its commitment as an occupying power, it would have had to pay NIS5-6 billion a year just to maintain basic services for a population of more than three million people".[294] Few would argue for a resumption of Israeli, as opposed to PA, administration in the OPT. However it does seem that Israel's' policies and actions in the last ten years have acted as an obstacle to the development of the PA into a government that is able to deliver services to its people—as was intended in the 1993 Declaration of Principles.

154. Donors are faced with a dilemma over the ethics of providing aid to over three million Palestinians behind Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks. But given that Israel does not accept its responsibilities as an occupying power, withdrawing would be a difficult decision to take. DFID told us: "Our position, as is the same with a number of donors, is that if we did nothing, we would see a great deal of suffering, so we have to look at the needs of the Palestinian people versus the wider political argument".[295] DFID's Programme Manager for the West Bank, Gaza Strip and UNRWA added: "It is quite clear that those obligations are not going to be met and the only alternative is to leave people to suffer if no one is substituting".[296] In the absence of any international authority mandated to represent the interest of the Palestinians under occupation, and until such "observers" are in place, this presence of bilateral and multilateral donor agencies provide a modicum of international "monitoring", if not protection.

155. But the International Committee of the Red Cross is ending its £21.5 million emergency relief programme in the West Bank, which provided 300,000 Palestinians with food aid.[297] A spokesman is reported as saying:

"This was humanitarian relief designed to assist in a humanitarian emergency, not to address the longer-term problems caused by curfews, closures and the collapse of the economy that has occurred. It is not our responsibility to take care of the economic needs of the Palestinians. We have repeatedly said it is the responsibility of the occupying power".[298]

More recently the UN and other international relief agencies have issued a warning to Israel that they will withdraw from the OPT unless the restrictions to their movement are eased.[299] Israeli soldiers firing at relief workers and subjecting them to long delays have been a major cause of concern to international agencies.

156. To a degree we can understand the ICRC strategy. We do not think there should be a withdrawal of aid to the OPT but are concerned that the current situation cannot continue indefinitely. We were interested in the suggestion of Dr Mushtaq Kahn, Lecturer at SOAS and co author of a forthcoming book on state formation in Palestine:

"Donors have to be careful not to let Israel shift into a bantustanization strategy by uncritically allowing aid to be used to sustain unviable enclaves. Even if aid has to flow for humanitarian reasons, each tranche should be time bound and its renewal should be an occasion for pressuring Israel to accept its responsibilities for the people living under its control." [300]

DFID in the OPT

157. The strategic focus of DFID's programme in the OPT is provided by its London office. The role of the new DFID office in Jerusalem is to represent DFID and seek to influence the donor environment and help improve donor co-ordination. We think that DFID can have an influential role in increasing donor harmonisation through its support for Palestinian-led development. DFID's work in building the PA's capacity has been effective and meets its objectives of supporting the peace process and the development of a viable future Palestinian state. It could increase support to the PA in the area of planning capacity and effective communication with donors.

158. DFID is developing a country strategy for the OPT. We believe its strategy should seek to alleviate poverty not only through service provision or development, but also through the working to the broader objective of increasing aid effectiveness through donor harmonisation and through a development conversation with the GOI about the relative responsibilities of Israel as an occupier, and the responsibilities of donors in relieving suffering. DFID should also be considering its involvement with advocacy as part of long-term poverty reduction. In particular it should give greater attention to pressuring the GOI for freedom of movement for humanitarian goods and personnel.

214   Q 1 Back

215   Ev 58 Back

216   Ibid. Back

217   Ev 70-1, Ev 84 Back

218   Ev 280 Back

219   Ev 54 Back

220   Ibid. Back

221   Ibid. Back

222   Ev 280 Back

223   Q 95 Back

224   World Bank, Op Cit. May 2003, page 51 Back

225   Meeting with Ministry of Education, Ramallah, 21 October 2003 Back

226   Q 94 Back

227   Ev 131  Back

228   Ibid. Back

229   Ev 60 Back

230   Ev 58  Back

231   Ev 51 Back

232   Qq 1, 3 Back

233   Q 5 Back

234   Ev 117 Back

235   Ev 118 Back

236   Ibid. Back

237   World Bank, Op Cit. May 2003, page xvi Back

238   World Bank, Op Cit. May 2003 Back

239   International Monetary Fund, Op. Cit. September 2003, page 63. See also Ev 118 Back

240   EU to support reform of Palestinian Authority with new forms of Aid, External Relations Department, EU, Brussels, 30 April 2003 Back

241   This would mean paying off PA arrears that have weakened business and contributed to higher unemployment, and paying off areas to the social sector which have weakened public health provision. Ibid. Back

242   Q 51 Back

243   World Bank, Op. Cit. May 2003, page 88 Back

244   Memorandum submitted by Stewart Cass (Not printed - copy placed in the library). Back

245   Q 64.See also Papers submitted by the European Union regarding funding to the Palestinian Authority (Not printed - copy placed in the library). Back

246   Q 112 Back

247   Q 64 Back

248   Papers submitted by the European Union regarding funding to the Palestinian Authority (Not printed - copy placed in the library). Back

249   Q 63 Back

250   Ibid.  Back

251   Ev 51 Back

252   Ev 55-6 Back

253   Ev 56 Back

254   Q 142 Back

255   Q 142 Back

256   Informal meeting involving USAID representative, Tel Aviv, 23 October 2003 Back

257   World Bank, Op. Cit. May 2003, page xiv Back

258   Ev 56  Back

259   Q85 Back

260   Ev 56, Ev 126, Ev 201 Back

261   Ev 232 Back

262   Q 21 Back

263   Ev 56 Back

264   Q 21  Back

265   Aid Co-ordination During the Intifada, Report to the LACC Co-Chairs, July 2003, Mokoro. Back

266   Q 21 Back

267   Executive Summary placed in the library Back

268   Ev 56 Back

269   Ev 86 Back

270   Q 84 Back

271   Update Report for the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee, Task Force on Project Implementation, Lancaster House, London, 18-19 February 2003 Back

272   Ibid. Back

273   Q 84 Back

274   Israel army warned by UN for shooting at aid workers, The Independent, 28 November 2003 Back

275   Aid donors warn Israel on occupied territories, Financial Times, 28 November 2003 Back

276   For example The UN Secretary General's Personal Humanitarian Envoy, Catherine Bertini Back

277   Ev 52 Back

278   See paragraph 78 of this report Back

279   Q 82 Back

280   Q 82 Back

281   Ev 68-70, Ev 76, Ev 84, Ev 98-100 Back

282   Ev 67 Back

283   Q 151  Back

284   Q 144 Back

285   Ev 275 Back

286   Q 146 Back

287   Q 76 Back

288   Interim Trade Association Agreement Back

289   The Irregular Application of EC-Israel Association Agreement-The Heart of the Problem, its Consequences and Risks, and a Good Solution, Charles Shamas, The Mattin Group (copy placed in the library). Back

290   Q 76 Back

291   Israel backs down in EU trade row, The Guardian, 26 November 2003 Back

292   World Bank, Op. Cit. May 2003, page xiv Back

293   Q 4, Ev89 Back

294   'International community supports a deluxe occupation', Meron Benvenisti, Ha'aretz News, 11 September 2003 Back

295   Q 30 Back

296   Q 31 Back

297   Red Cross to phase out West Bank aid operation, The Times, 17 November 2003 See also New Strategy for the West Bank, ICRC, 20 November 2003, Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention-Statement by ICRC, ICRC, 5 December 2003, Aid gets political for Red Cross, Christian Science Monitor, 26 November 2003 (reliefweb) Back

298   'Blame Israel,' says Red Cross as it ends food aid for West Bank, By Justin Huggler in Jerusalem, 16 November 2003. See also New Strategy for the West Bank, ICRC, 20 November 2003, Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention-Statement by ICRC, ICRC, 5 December 2003, Aid gets political for Red Cross, Christian Science Monitor, 26 November 2003 (reliefweb) Back

299   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. See also New Strategy for the West Bank, ICRC, 20 November 2003, Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention-Statement by ICRC, ICRC, 5 December 2003, Aid gets political for Red Cross, Christian Science Monitor, 26 November 2003 (reliefweb) Back

300   Ev 249


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