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Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Palestinian NGO Network

1.  INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

  1.1  The PNGO network is a voluntary cluster of over 90 Palestinian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in various human, social and development fields. They share a unified vision: the development and strengthening of the Palestinian NGO sector and civil society as a whole.

  1.2  The network was established to ensure, through communication and co-ordination, that Palestinian NGOs and civil society could create an effective body to protect and promote the values and voice of civil rights and democracy within Palestine. The PNGO network works to enhance and strengthen the capacity of its members and the sector to enable them to play a more active role in the development process.

  1.3  Over the past three years Palestinian civil society has not only been under direct attack from the militant policies of the Israeli military occupation, which has routinely attacked civil organisations trying to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population; it has also suffered the devastating consequences of the Israeli policies of closure and curfew. Palestinian NGOs are routinely denied access to carry out their humanitarian work; their premises destroyed, equipment stolen, and action impeded.

  1.4  These actions have been `legitimatised' in the name of Israel's security, in gross violation and contravention of International Human Rights law, namely the Forth Geneva conventions.

  1.5  As a result, the PNGO network, acting as the voice of some 90 civil society organisations, believes that the international donor community needs to urgently:

    —  address the political root cause of the present under-development of the Palestinian Community: ie the illegal military occupation of the Palestinian Territories;

    —  address the gross, flagrant violations of human rights practiced by the occupying force against the Palestinian civilians and civil society organisations operating in the Palestinian Territories;

    —  work at making Israel accountable for its policies and practices against civilians in direct violation of humanitarian law and UN resolutions;

    —  stop the construction of the separating apartheid wall currently under construction in the heart of the Palestinian territories;

    —  stop the policy of closure, which imprisons millions of people inside their towns and villages and has had devastating social and economic consequences on the Palestinians;

    —  immediately stop the expansionist settlement policy of the Israeli government and make Israel abide with international law and international legitimacy stipulated in the United Nations Resolutions;

    —  hold Israel accountable for its illegal transfer of some 231,000 Israeli citizens, to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Areas, changing the demographic make up of the areas which Israel occupies which is a blatant violation of international law, which prohibits occupying forces from such acts;

    —  ensure international protection for the Palestinian civilians living under the Israeli military occupation;

    —  ensure access to resources, particular water, and guarantee full control of free trade, including free movements of people and goods to and from, as well within, the Palestinian areas;

    —  ensure that the critical role of Palestinian society is fully recognized and protected under international law;

    —  ensure Palestinian Civil Society is supported by the international community where any longer-term, sustainable political solution will depend on a fully enfranchised and active Palestinian civil society; and ensure that the international donor policy continues to support the important role of Palestinian civil society in meeting the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestinian community.

2.  THE DEVELOPMENT AND ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS IN PALESTINE

  2.1  During the last two decades, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Palestine have developed substantially. The absence of a national government and the long-standing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian land necessitated the growth and development of CSOs in Palestine.

  2.2  The context through which CSOs started to function was based on civil resistance and self-organisation. Hence social movements and civil society structures started to develop in the Palestinian community, through which civil non-violent resistance was practiced against the illegal Israeli Military Occupation.

  2.3  The aid assistance provided by international agencies for CSO has contributed a great deal to the development of civil and popular movements in the Palestinian community. Prior to the Oslo Agreement and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestinian NGO sector was the main provider of humanitarian assistance and other essential social services for the Palestinian population. Since the establishment of the PA, still in its embryonic stages, the sector has remained an important provider of services, meeting the needs of the Palestinian community at a time when the emerging national structures were in their initial stage of development and formation.

  2.4  CSOs are considered to be highly effective, professional tools for poverty alleviation programs, health provision, social and rehabilitation services, as well as performing their essential role in education, agriculture and other developing sectors. Their readiness, ability and enthusiasm to serve their own communities have been instrumental in enhancing socio-economic development in Palestine.

  2.5  Since the creation of the PA and the emergence of national structures, the role of the CSOs has started to change more towards one of lobbying and advocacy, as well as service provision. Human rights and democratic transformation of the Palestinian community were major themes of the work of CSOs in Palestine following the establishment of the central and national government structure in the country.

  2.6  However, the role of civil society, and NGOs in particular, in service provision and poverty alleviation continues to be crucial as the new government structures have not yet had the capacity to take over all the responsibilities in this area. As well as being better structured to provide services in many social fields, the work of the NGOs has been crucial in ensuring community and broader popular participation in the development process.

  2.7  The work of NGOs in enhancing democratic values and civil culture has been visible in all fields. A gender component has been integrated into many areas of the development process, including health and rehabilitation. CSOs and NGOs have developed advocacy tools and strategies to influence national polices, and to promote equitable, sound and just development polices.

  2.8  CSOs have been effective in the emergency and relief intervention due to a number of factors:

    —  Through their well distributed teams and social networks they have been able to continue their operations in all areas and to provide essential services to the needy population.

    —  Their decentralised structures have helped in maintaining their flexibility to operate in differing conditions and a changing and vulnerable environment where siege and closures imposed by the Israeli army have been a major obstacle.

    —  They have been most active in organising solidarity activities with the Palestinian cause, through the involvement of international solidarity groups, and peace movements in Israel.

    —  Most importantly, CSOs have been most active in promoting the concept of civil non-violent resistance through wide participation of civil groups and movements.

  2.9  The promotion of networking among all players in civil society and the formation of a CS coordination committee are considered very important steps in the overall development process of a civil society movement in Palestine.

  2.10  The support provided for civil society is believed to be an important element in promoting the values of civility and democracy. Hence, it is valuable in terms of peace making, and is a major factor in promoting a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Palestine. In turn it is a major contributing factor to peace efforts in the region to bring about a just and lasting solution.

3.  RECOMMENDATIONS

  3.1  As the current situation on the ground is becoming extremely critical and as the civilian population are suffering the most from the violence inflicted by the occupying force, it is essential to immediately deploy an international peace keeping force that can guarantee security for both sides and create a conducive environment for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel.

  3.2  It is the duty of the international community to stop Israeli settlement policy as this policy aggravates the situation on the ground and creates no possibility for bringing about a viable solution for Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories.

  3.3  There should be an immediate intervention by the international community to stop the building of the apartheid wall on the Palestinian lands.

  3.4  As Israel continues to violate the international law and continues its discrimination and racist policies, certain measures should be taken against the Israeli state, including the boycott of Israeli products and the cessations of any military cooperation or agreements with the Israeli Government.

  3.5  It is the duty of representatives of the people members of parliament and civil society activists to raise their voice and to exert a real pressure on their respective governments to change their policies towards the state of Israel.

  3.6  Justice, human rights, equality, security and human dignity are inseparable universal values and apply to humankind and the international community should be actively ensuring that these values are applied in this area of the Middle East.

  3.7  Humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people must continue and civil society organisations working to provide those services should be supported and protected.

  3.8  Access to humanitarian assistance and essential medical, social, educational, agricultural services and water resources should be guaranteed and ensured for the Palestinian population.

  3.9  Palestinian civil society organizations should be supported to play an active, viable role in the overall development process of the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

September 2003


 
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