Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Y Care International


  1.  Y Care International (YCI) is the overseas relief and development agency of the YMCA movement in UK and Ireland. YCI focuses on international youth development, in particular supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in the developing world. Y Care International develops and funds over 70 youth projects in partnership with local YMCAs and YWCAs in 30 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.

  2.  Our current priority programmes target young people at risk, working and street children, girls and young women, young refugees and displaced people, and young people with disabilities. Areas of programme work focus on six key areas: skills development and employment, HIV/AIDS and health awareness, citizenship and democracy, emergency and post-conflict work, youth justice and rehabilitation and advocacy and youth leadership. Y Care International offers support to YMCA and YWCA projects, developed with local communities and youth groups, irrespective of the race, colour, gender, nationality or religion of the participants.

  3.  YCI has worked in partnership with the East Jerusalem YMCA since 1987. The East Jerusalem YMCA is a not-for-profit NGO, working on behalf of Palestinians communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Part of the worldwide federation of YMCAs, it was established in 1949 and subsequently set up a vocational training centre in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Jericho.The YMCA movement is based on Christian ideals but is equally an interfaith movement, notably in the Middle East region—many of the staff and most of the beneficiaries of the East Jerusalem YMCA are Muslim.

  4.  YCI currently works with the East Jerusalem YMCA in three main areas. These are: to provide financial and technical support to its Women's Training programme and Rehabilitation programme, to fundraise for the YMCA's Olive tree campaign and to campaign on issues relating to the occupation, such as the administrative detention and restrictions of movement of YMCA staff and students.

  5.  There are a number of issues and concerns affecting our partners in the Occupied Territories in the current political climate. However, rather than attempt to cover all of these issues, this memorandum will focus on one of the nine areas identified by the enquiry and is of concern to YCI and our partner, the East Jerusalem YMCA. This is:

    The effectiveness of aid from UK and EU sources on Palestinian poverty levels, how it is targeted and what could be done to prevent it from being wasted or destroyed.


Background to the projects

  6.  In 2000, YCI was awarded a grant from the Community Fund for a four year project to provide financial support to East Jerusalem YMCA's Women's Training Programme at the YMCA's Vocational Training Centre in Jericho. The Women's Training Programme provides appropriate vocational training for disadvantaged young Palestinian women. This training is relatively unique in Palestine in that it addresses the lack of marketable and meaningful vocational training opportunities for Palestinian women, through non-conventional training in areas such as computer and office equipment maintenance.The training is provided with a view to them finding employment in this field, with support from the East Jerusalem YMCA's Extension services Unit based in Ramallah, which provides work placement opportunities for young people.

  7.  In 1997, YCI received funding from the European Union for the East Jerusalem's Rehabilitation Programme in Beit Sahour. EU funding ceased in 2001 and since then YCI has been providing financial assistance with support from a UK based trust. The Rehabilitation Programme assists Palestinian young people and children that have been adversely affected by the conflict by providing support services for those with disabilities in Palestine and rehabilitation for traumatised victims of political violence.

  8. YCI has been supporting the East Jerusalem YMCA's Olive Tree Campaign since April 2002. The campaign aims to replant 50,000 of more than 112,000 olive trees which have been uprooted in the Occupied Territories over the last three years. The initiative also has the support of YMCAs in England, Sweden, Switzerland, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Each tree produces 17 litres of oil a year, and takes 10 years to mature and bear fruit. Their loss has a devastating impact on local communities. The campaign was launched in April 2002, and so far has raised over £1,000 generated by UK donations. The trees which will replace the destroyed olive groves are grown at a nursery in East Jerusalem run by a YMCA women's training programme and will be planted throughout the West Bank.


Policy of closure

  9.  The policy of closure was inaugurated with the occupation in June 1967. An extensive network of fixed and mobile military checkpoints now exists on roads inside both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

  10.  This situation has affected every aspect of daily life for Palestinians. A tightening of the network of military checkpoints and roadblocks has placed three million Palestinians under virtual siege. In addition, poverty has increased rapidly as a result of rising unemployment, the ability to move around has been severely restricted, and concerns over safety have increased dramatically.

  11.  Within this context, it has been very difficult for the Women's training programme and the Rehabilitation centre to be able run according to plan. The attack by Israeli forces on the YMCA Extension Services Unit office in Ramallah on the 8 April last year, along with Israeli damage to the Beit Sahour Rehabilitation centre in May 2001, were a setback for the work of the YMCA.

  12.  In addition, the inconsistent and arbitrary nature of Israel's restrictions on movement for Palestinians has made it difficult for the centre to plan activities strategically. The closure and curfews, by Israeli forces, of a large number of roads connecting the different parts of the West Bank has denied free passage to almost every Palestinian. Consequently staff and students have to pay double in some cases triple the transportation tariff in order to be able to reach the YMCA centres.

  13.  The issue of access to the centres and YMCA has been of major concern and distress to the East Jerusalem YMCA. The YMCA have reported how some staff and students have had to use precarious routes, through mountains and unpaved roads in order to avoid the Israeli military checkpoints. YMCA staff members from the Vocational Training Centre, living outside of Jericho and many students from Jerusalem have been denied access on several occasions from entering Jericho. Where staff members have been unable to reach the centre, classes have on several occasions had to be cancelled.

  14.  The East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitiation centre has had to reduce their outreach work and physical contact with field staff, and the centre's beneficiaries (those traumatised or injured as a result of the conflict), due to road restrictions. These restrictions have forced the YMCA to find alternative means of reaching out to those in need, and maintaining contact with their staff. Alternative means have tended to involve long and more costly journeys, and depending on the telephone and telephone conference calls to communicate with outreach staff, which is often more costly and less effective than meeting face-to face.


  15.  Of increasing concern has been the number of YMCA staff and students that have been arrested by Israeli soldiers and being held under administrative detention. Since October 2002, three YMCA staff members and three students of the YMCA vocational training programme have been arrested by Israeli soldiers and placed under administrative detention. To date, one staff member and three students remain under administrative detention.

  16.  All of the above factors have led to the following:

    —  Difficulties and delays for instructors, counsellors and students to reach the Centres.

    —  Halt in the fee payment caused by the deteriorating economic situation.

    —  Increase in some expenses such as transportation.

    —  Delays in obtaining raw materials needed for training.

    —  Drastic decrease in orders to the production unit (carpentry).

    —  A 10% dropout, mainly from the boarding sections (males and females) for the Jericho Vocational Training Centre (VTC).

    —  A loss of jobs amongst recent graduates of the YMCA vocational training due to the inability to access their workplaces, or the closure of the company due to the economic crisis and reduced effectiveness of the Extension Services Unit.

    —  Added to that continuous cut-off of water supply from the Israeli side—which provides the Aqbat Jaber Camp, where the Jericho VTC is situated, with water resulted in increasing the cost of water supply through buying water tanks.

    —  Inability of the VTC staff to follow up with recent graduates in the field due to the difficulty in travelling.


  17.  On 26 January 2003, bulldozers from Neve Daniel, an Israeli settlement, near Bethlehem, entered the land of Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian farmer, and uprooted more than 150 newly-planted olive trees in order to break ground for a new bypass road. The bulldozers were "protected" by armed settlers from Neve Daniel. Most of these trees had been planted through the Olive Tree Campaign on 25 December 2002.


  18.  YCI and the UK government and EU's financial support to the East Jerusalem YMCA over the past four years cannot be used effectively to reduce levels of poverty amongst Palestinians due to key issues associated with the occupation. These are the Israeli restriction of movement placed on Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Israeli confiscation of water resources from Jericho, and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

  19.  This violates the rights of Palestinians as stipulated in the Fourth Geneva Convention and The Hague Regulations (1907). Therefore, it is only by withdrawing Israeli troops to positions held prior to September 2000 to allow humanitarian work to be carried out unimpeded, lifting the closure and dismantling checkpoints within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, by ending all land confiscation and imposing an immediate freeze on settlement activities that the YMCA will be able to carry out its work effectively.

August 2003

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