Examination of Witnesses (Questions 79-96)|
11 NOVEMBER 2003
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming
and giving evidence and thank you also for your written submissions.
Q79 Mr Khabra: In our recent visit
we saw the impact of the occupation with checkpoints and it is
very difficult for NGOs particularly to make sure that they are
able to provide emergency aid. At the same time, you have a responsibility
to see how to develop a war zone. It may be possible for you to
incorporate emergency relief with the development work but what
we have noticed is that the impact is enormous on the lives of
people, business, employment etc. In your experience, what development
work, in contrast to humanitarian relief, is possible in a situation
like that of occupation, with restrictions and lack of freedom
for the people? What development projects will you be running
before the current intifada/closure has affected your work?
Mr Bell: The important thing to
notice first is that despite the frustrations of occupation which
the Committee will have seen are very obviousthey range
from closures to checkpoints to curfews, which obviously has a
tremendous impact on the ability of Palestinians to get around,
which is a central part of any development worklong term
development is still possible and essential. The one point I want
to accentuate here is that however difficult it isand it
is difficultlong term development is essential as long
as it is coupled with an active political engagement. Long term
development in a vacuum is not going to produce much in the way
of sustainable development or progress. It is essential that you
have that political engagement from the international community
and, in our case, the UK Government. In terms of types of development,
my colleagues will have a lot to add, but from our experience
there is a lot that you can do in development of people in their
capacity building which is less affected by the damage and destruction
caused by the infrastructure and buildings etc.
Mr Saunders: In terms of some
illustrations of effective development that has been going on
throughout the intifada, I have come up with three particular
examples that illustrate both how and why it is important that
development is still considered to be a viable and feasible process.
The first is at the community midwife training that the British
Government has funded Save the Children to undertake in the Gaza
Strip. That work has been going on for eight or nine years now.
In spite of the massive constraints that the current situation
has imposed in the Gaza Strip in terms of access and movement,
that programme has continued. Indeed, the very relevance of community
midwifery as opposed to hospital based midwifery has been accentuated
by the intifada. That is one illustration of considerably important
development work that has been undertaken successfully. It is
currently being undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry
of Health. The second is education curriculum development through
the Ministry of Education that has been working very effectively
in terms of producing new, relevant curricula over the last two
or three years. It is now 60% implemented. It is being implemented
incrementally year by year and that is a very effective example
of development in practice, undertaken by the PA with support
from others. The third is the child law review and the national
plan of action, again very critical capacity related activities
that have their focus on youth. It is a very important area, so
there are three current examples of development work that are
in place and operating effectively. Perhaps there are some illustrations
of approaches which are less effective. There are issues around
food aid and the way that the approach to the implementation of
food aid is undermining local production in some areas and is,
in a sense, not directed at the key issues and fundamental problems
but more at the symptoms of the problems. That has, in some respects,
had an undermining effect so there is a contrast there between
an emergency input that has less of a development focus and some
very effective development work.
Mr Leach: I would like to add,
in support of what my colleagues have said, that whilst development
action is possible to some extent, is certainly needed and should
be pursued, we do not want to lose sight of the fact that the
destruction of people's lives in some cases and livelihoods is
enormous and widespread. The World Bank reported at the end of
2002 that 92,000 Palestinians of 128,000 employed in Israel before
the intifada had lost their jobs. With the closure policy, agriculture
as a main source of income for the majority of people has been
seriously affected. The presence of settlements and other factors
make that as a source of livelihood very difficult. We should
not lose sight of declines in security. Whilst there is an increased
need for development action, it has also become increasingly difficult
to achieve this. It is important to stress that we are concerned
that the achievement of Millennium Development Goals for 2015
is some way off.
Dr Shadid: I am grateful to have
the opportunity to be with you today. I would like to reiterate
what my colleagues have said regarding the Palestinian people's
needs, aspirations and expectations. The Palestinian people are
grateful to you for the financial support that you are giving
them but they sincerely hope that your support will extend beyond
the humanitarian and development support, more to the political.
The Palestinians say, "We would rather go to bed hungry and
have our liberty and be free from occupation than remain under
occupation with our bellies full." I would sincerely hope
that you will intensify any effort that you have for a peace process
and for the liberation of the Palestinian people from the Israeli
occupation. Regarding the direct question on aid, the Welfare
Association before the intifada had been disbursing about $7 million
in development assistance to the Palestinian people. Now we are
disbursing about $30 million. It means that 30% of our work is
in development and 70% of our work is related to emergency. We
always keep in mind that it is an emergency and we are addressing
immediate humanitarian goals and objectives. However, we make
sure that there is a developmental impact and side to the aid.
For example, there is a village named Shibteen in West Ramallah
with a population of 1,500 people. 90% of the working population
depends on labour in Israel. 90% are now unemployed. Through a
project with funding from DFID, through the World Bank Palestinian
NGO Project and managed by a consortium of the Welfare Association,
the British Council and the Charities Foundation, we have supported
them in the building of a community centre for $55,000. It gave
17,000 work days for the unemployed and it established a community
centre which will be used for programmes in health awareness,
education, computers for children and youth, as well as various
community activities. This is a development project, and at the
same time it addresses joblessness and unemployment in that particular
village. One man said that he had not worked a day in two years
and now he is grateful to DFID, the British Government and to
all the partners involved for the opportunity to work one month
on this particular project. This is how we address the emergency
situation and, at the same time, we help build community assets
and provide developmental impact.
Q80 Mr Khabra: Due to the latest
situation, which is a serious one, how much trust and confidence
have you lost from the people, in your ability to help people?
There must be some impact on your relationship with the local
Mr Bell: Do you mean how much
confidence have the local population that we are working with
lost in us?
Q81 Mr Khabra: Yes.
Mr Bell: Christian Aid, as opposed
to the other three organisations here, is non-operational on the
groundi.e. we support local organisations both Palestinian
and Israeli. We have not found that what we call our partners
have lost confidence in us. What perhaps might be more accurate
is that they are rapidly losing confidence in the international
community as a whole. Specifically over the last three years,
but also generally speaking, they feel that the international
community has somewhat deserted their humanitarian needs. For
example, we have seen peace processes come and go, as have they.
We might have thought that Palestinians would have been particularly
grateful for the recent introduction of the road map and, more
recently, the Geneva Accords. However, the most common response
has been, "We do not really need another initiative. What
we need is implementation of those international laws that would
guarantee our security and our safety." That goes for both
the Israeli and Palestinian populations. If you are talking about
a lack of confidence, it is much more the lack of meaningful engagement
from the international community, and specifically the quartet,
to address the issue that is underlying the cause of their problems.
In this case, for Palestinians, that is the occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza.
Chairman: Judging by the nods of assent,
I think the other witnesses agree with that answer.
Q82 Mr Walter: I would like to develop
this point in the field of advocacy. During our visit, we heard
from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that
in a manmade situation such as we have in the occupied Palestinian
territories, advocacy is a necessary part of the humanitarian
package. There are obviously quasi-official level organisationsI
am thinking of the Negotiation Support Unit which has funding
from the UKbut I wonder if you could tell us how your work
is balanced between service provision and advocacy and whether
the balance of that has changed over recent years or just in the
Mr Leach: We need to be clear
about what we mean by "advocacy" and if we say that
advocacy is 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 and therefore from the reality of
the situation, we are balancing the delivery of assistance with
the need to voice those concerns. To speak from the experience
of ordinary people, I would like to use one example of a village
called Madama close to Nablus, where, on successive occasions
villagers working with Oxfam staff have been interfered with,
shot at by settlers and ultimately the water infrastructure has
been semi-permanently damaged. We are going to make renewed efforts
to try to repair that spring. An example like that of the Madama
spring illustrates the importance of speaking from the experience
of what people face. We believe that is essential. Moreover, we
think that it is important, building on the last discussion, that
we do speak and in this way help to hold accountable institutions
and bodies that have authority to make a difference and to bring
pressure to bear on other institutions like the European Union.
We understand from officials in the European Union that they depend
upon members of Westminster and other governments to act and respond
and speak on these issues.
Mr Bell: Christian Aid has definitely
increased its capacity to do advocacy as we have seen the importance
of long term development being coupled and working in tandem with
a political engagement. To this sort of humanitarian crisis, there
is only a political solution. Aid in itself would only provide
a band aid type solution. Our advocacy is very much rooted in
the experience of our partners, both Israeli and Palestinian.
Most of our analysis is derived from their experience. The reason
that we have concentrated some of our time in advocacy with the
British Government is because we see that the British Government
does have a constructive, positive role on the development of
the situation. We have been very supportive, I like to think,
and do support DFID's work in the area but one thing that is quite
clear is that the British Government has, to a certain extent,
lacked a joined up policy. We have seen DFID give an enormous
amount either through its donations to the PA or to the United
Nations, UNRWA. A lot of that aid has been wasted and destroyed
through the invasions and activities of the Israeli Defence Forces.
There we are obviously talking about British taxpayers' money
but at the same time we can see the DTI issuing export licences
for arms. We can see the DTI promoting Israel as one of 14 target
markets for British investment and, to me, that sends out a mixed
signal about British engagement on this issue. Christian Aid is
not looking for punitive measures, but we are certainly looking
for a joined up policy that would suggest that we really do mean
business on this and that we cannot accept a situation where taxpayers'
money, through development contributions to the recipients in
the Palestinian territories, is offset by this seeming normalisation
of the situation on the other hand. In terms of advocacy, one
other angle which I think is important for us to get clarification
from the government about has been most recently illustrated last
month on 14 October. On the same day, the British Government abstained
from a UN Security Council resolution declaring that the wall
was illegal, which would be a helpful reminder to the international
community that the wall is illegal. At the same time, Jack Straw
in the House of Commonsthat same daywas declaring
that the British Government considered the wall illegal. It is
sending out mixed messages. I think the government needs to address
that issue, which is why we have engaged in advocacy to ensure
that all the parts fit together in a consistent manner.
Q83 Chairman: My understanding was
that the British Government had brokered an amended motion on
the security fence in the General Assembly.
Mr Bell: That is correct. They
Q84 John Barrett: Could I ask about
channels of communication between occupiers and the occupied and
also ask if the task force for project implementation is the way
you channel concerns of individual organisations to exert pressure
on Her Majesty's Government to put pressure on the Israeli authorities?
How have the communications developed and how could they develop?
Dr Shadid: I am not sure if there
are good channels of communication between the International Development
Agency and the Israeli Government. There is contact and co-ordination
between AIDA, which is the body representing all the international
organisations, and the Israeli branch of government that is dealing
with the occupied Palestinian territories. That type of communication
helps somewhat in the facilitation of the movement of international
staff, but it has a very marginal effect on Palestinian or local
staff having the ability to move. Movement is extremely difficult.
I will give you an example. You heard lately that the Israeli
Government is easing up restrictions on movement in the occupied
territories. That has been extremely marginal. My brother in law
lives in Ramallah and 10 or 12 days ago he had to have open heart
surgery. Israeli physicians at the hospital in Jerusalemand
they are excellent, by the wayaccepted to do the surgery.
He had to move from Ramallah to the hospital, a trip that normally
takes 35 minutes. It took him over three hours with all the proper
papers in the ambulance etc., to get to the hospital for open
heart surgery. This is the extent of facilitation that exists.
We have a programme officer who lives in Nablus and comes to our
offices in Jerusalem. From Nablussome of you have visited
and seen the roadit normally takes about 40 to 50 minutes.
Now, it takes him anywhere between three and nine hours to get
to the office. He has an AIDA card because we are members of AIDA.
That is supposed to facilitate his movement. Most of the talk
about facilitation of movement is more for PR and is cosmetic.
As long as the Israeli Government does not come under international
pressure to facilitate movement of humanitarian international
aid, they will continue to get away with it.
Mr Leach: We coordinate with the
District Co-ordination Office of the Israeli Defence Force. Many
non-governmental organisations refuse to do this kind of coordination
as a matter of principle, believing that free access should be
guaranteed under international humanitarian law. Of course, that
is correct. Our Palestinian staff often get treated badly, are
made to wait unaccountably and arbitrarily for hours at checkpoints.
When we do get access, we are able sometimes to negotiate on behalf
of some communities for the removal of household, human and animal
waste, but we cannot negotiate on behalf of every community. Daur
Sharaf is a village near Nablus where we have managed to get in
and rectify a situation where a system of checkpoints and blockages
had prevented people from getting rid of their waste but we cannot
do it for everybody and nor should we try. There are institutions
which are better placed to do that. For instance, Mekorot as the
Israeli water company would be much better placed to provide an
effective drinking water system than we can with our less cost
effective systems, and which we are only using because people
are in desperate need.
Mr Saunders: The critical point
is the effort that is applied is a constant for our staff, whether
international or national staff. I do not know what the proportion
may be but you can assume 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
Q85 John Barrett: When we were there,
I was told by a local NGO that there are more international NGOs
in the Palestinian territories than any other area on earth. The
task force on project implementation gave me the impression that
what happens is that individual NGOs try to negotiate as best
they can almost at individual checkpoints. I want to ask you the
wider question about coordination, not simply about access but
about programmes and emergency aid as well. Do you just take notes
of what you each do or are you harmonising programmes? To be more
positive about it, are you positively planning to coordinate a
response as international NGOs to the Palestinian Authority's
own full development plan which will need funding? Will you be
coming in together behind that?
Mr Bell: In terms of flagging
up those bodies which are designed to coordinate and avoid duplication
of NGO activities, there are two fora. One exists in Jerusalem
called the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA),
which holds regular meetings. Christian Aid is not a member of
it because we do not have a presence or office there, but they
are very functional. They are co-ordinating with the Israeli authorities
in terms of access. I hasten to add that that does not apply to
the Palestinian humanitarian aid workers. In this country we have
something called the Platform for those agencies that work on
the issues of Palestinian territories. Again, we co-ordinate and
discuss those issues that are important to us at the time, which
helps to avoid any duplication and gives us an idea of where we
are all at.
Q86 John Barrett: You said there
were two. What was the other one? Is there one in Gaza?
Mr Bell: No. There is one in Britain
and one in Jerusalem. That is purely an international agency.
I should have added that there is obviously a network of Palestinian
non-governmental organisations, called PNGO, and they very much
co-ordinate as well amongst themselves and with the Palestinian
Authority. Some of the Palestinian NGOs are now subcontracted
out. For example, the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees,
because they are better placed through their historical development
for delivering primary healthcare in the more far flung areas
of the West Bank and Gaza, where the PA does not have the ability
to do that. That is a good example of national level co-ordination
Mr Leach: There are a lot of organisations
and we are aware of that. There is a lot of increasingly effective
donor co-ordination as well and that is observed by the World
Bank office. Oxfam chairs an Emergency Water and Sanitation and
Hygiene co-ordination group, EWASH, of which the Palestinian Water
Authority and USAID and others are members. It meets monthly to
share information and to prioritise needs and co-ordinate responses.
It is through that mechanism amongst othersthe PWA in particularthat
we are responding to efforts by the PA to co-ordinate plans.
Q87 Mr Battle: Will you be getting
behind the development plan that is going to be put forward at
the end of the month?
Mr Leach: The Ministry of Planning
produces regular priorities and we see that as being a continuation
of established mechanisms to which we do respond already.
Dr Shadid: AIDA is an umbrella
for international organisations and they hold board meetings,
special sessions, to talk about grants and programmes and to prevent
duplication of funding for the same area, for the same institution.
That has been effective. There is also co-ordination at Palestinian
level. Recently a forum has been established which represents
all Palestinian NGOs and the unions and networks. There are four
unions and networks and they represent about 1,000 Palestinian
NGOs. They co-ordinate amongst themselves, plus co-ordination
through the World Bank and UNHCR of the United Nations. Also,
there is sectoral co-ordination with the Ministry of Agriculture
and the Ministry of Health, as well as other ministries. At that
level, there is co-ordination between local NGOs, the Palestinian
Government and the international NGOs. Co-ordination is taking
place in this process.
Q88 Mr Khabra: In order to provide
the delivery of service, it is important that you must have co-ordination
with the PA and UNRWA. If you work with the local NGOs, they can
be helpful in order to have co-ordination with the PA and UNRWA.
How much service delivery is done by NGOs? Do you think the fact
that the PA is not the main service provider to its people in
the current situation undermines the PA's legitimacy? It is important
that all the different NGOs, the PA and UNRWA together have co-ordination
and they can work together to have better service delivery.
Mr Saunders: The Ministry of Education
runs schools very effectively. There is very little duplication.
There are no parallel services. The Ministry of Health is an example
where you do get problems of parallel services with
Q89 Chairman: We saw a number of
schools being run by UNRWA and one of the things we noticed was
that some services were being delivered to refugees and some services
were being delivered to non-refugees.
Mr Saunders: I will revise that
point. UNRWA responsibility is the provision of education for
the refugee communities. The Ministry of Education responsibility
is for the non-refugee Palestinians. Thank you for that correction.
I would not call that parallel service. That is part of the mandate.
In terms of health delivery services, there you do get delivery
of services by NGOs, by the Ministry of Health, by UNRWA. That
encapsulates the number of different possibilities but in that
there is quite possibly potential core undermining and coordination
with the Ministry of Health is more problematic because of that
far more open field.
Mr Leach: We and our partners
as Oxfam and Oxfam International believe that the Palestinian
Authority is the credible and only partner for us to work with.
However, we also recognise that the PA is working under enormous
restriction. Much of government is handicapped by restrictions
imposed by the occupying power. We are put in a very difficult
position because we, as international organisations, could on
the one hand be described as undermining the PA and its ability
to deliver and, on the other hand, subsidising the occupation.
We are acutely conscious of the dilemma that we are put into,
but I think it is important to stress that we recognise the PWA
as our principal partner in the Palestinian Authority for delivery
of water, as the regulator for that sector. We know that the PWA
is undergoing a structural transformation at the moment and the
World Bank water department will become a major supplier. We are
trying to work with other institutions to make sure that it is
as effective as it possibly could be but I think, as we have all
witnessed with the start of the wall and the pursuit of that disastrous
policy, it is going to be increasingly difficult for the PA to
exercise any kind of meaningful governance. We are having to work
with a number of increasingly tightening constraints.
Mr Bell: I agree with what my
colleagues have said, largely, but maybe I can put a slightly
different complexion on the question. The PA has definitely lost
some credibility amongst the Palestinian population but I would
not put that necessarily down to the fact that they have not been
the main service provider, such as for health and education. Where
they have lost credibility is because of the situation that the
PA has found itself in. The first ten years of the PA's existence
under Oslo were not all that the Palestinian population expected
them to be. There was a lack of prioritisation of poverty alleviation
but most importantly for most Palestinians credibility was taken
away when they saw that, to a large extent, the PA was unable
to act as an equal negotiating partner with the Israelis in order
to improve their lives. That is where most credibility has been
lost. The way Palestinian society has developed, a lot of Palestinians
have grown up and got used very much to the idea of a very strong
civil society, delivering a lot of basic services. The PA in its
attempts to centralise has sometimes upset that balance, probably
necessarily, but that is the chief source of the credibility loss
to the PA.
Dr Shadid: There are three types
of schools. There are private schools run by charitable societies.
There are UNRWA schools which are only up to preparatory level.
There are government schools which are up to the final grade of
baccalaureate. The UNRWA schools constitute about 15 to 20% of
all the schools in the West Bank and Gaza. The private schools
are roughly about 5%, and the rest are all government schools.
There is co-ordination in this area. The government does not address
the need of pre-school education, and kindergartens. This is all
being handled by the NGOs and there is co-ordination on this level.
With regard to health, if we talk about six years ago, there has
been a strain in the relationship between the NGOs and the Palestinian
Authority, but since then in the last four years that relationship
has substantially improved and there is now co-operation and co-ordination.
We held a conference about two years ago on co-operation and complementarity
between the PNA and the NGOs and I think it has gone a long way
towards improving functional and working relations between the
two. For example, right now the Welfare Association is supporting
health equipment to the hospitals in the occupied territories
with a grant of $8 million. There is a committee composed representatives
from the private sector, the NGOs and the government. The committee
is responsible for allocating the equipment to the most needy
hospitals. They are now working very well together. When the need
is so much and the situation is so bad, there is not much time
for bickering. Everybody pitches in and they work together to
try to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population.
Q90 Mr Khabra: It is well known to
the international community that Hamas is providing support to
families in different ways. I hope that you all know about that.
What sort of relationship do you have with Hamas, which is known
to be a terrorist organisation? It is popular just because of
the support they are giving to the people who are poor, those
who have suffered for one reason or the other. They are giving
food, clothing, medicine and so on. What is the situation with
regard to Hamas?
Mr Leach: As impartial humanitarian
organisations, as you know, we do not make our decisions about
assistance on the basis of politics, race, creed, or colour. We
are impartial agencies and we are working with ordinary people.
The choices of ordinary people about their affiliations is not
a concern for us. We are concerned about the needs of communities
that have been put into extremely difficult circumstances. We
are working with local village councils and municipalities and
recognised structures within the Palestinian Authority to provide
assistance to those people. We do not have connections with Hamas.
Dr Shadid: I think the issue of
Hamas and families benefiting from international aid is being
overblown and exaggerated. Hamas does not need the support of
the international community. They have their own channels of funding
in grass roots communities from all over to support the families
of the deceased and others. Those who suffer the most are those
who have nothing to do with politics or one faction or the other.
We have a programme of supporting 1,200 families with funding
from the Arab Gulf countries, family to family support of $100
a month. The way we identify those families is through community
organisations, who do a needs assessment and those who are not
receiving any support are the ones who receive this support. I
do not think it is an issue. I think it is over-exaggerated. If
a child is hungry, we have to feed that child, no matter who the
Q91 John Barrett: If I could move
on to the question of the destruction of infrastructure by the
Israeli militaryschools, clinics, and Gaza Airportthe
EU has estimated almost 40 million euros-worth of damage has been
done. Could I ask about the possibility of compensation, documentation
of what has been destroyed, and how could the loss be minimised
in future? Is any action to be taken possibly in the future with
regard to compensation?
Mr Leach: We do document damage
through the mechanism that I described, the Emergency Water and
Sanitation Committee. We also record incidents that affect our
work too through OCHA, the Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian
Affairs. The question of damage and destruction and therefore
compensation is extremely difficult. We have replaced broken infrastructure
and continue to do so. We have examples of that as we have set
out in our submission. It is very difficult to quantify the full
damage of the destruction because it is not just visible infrastructure;
it is also damage to socio-economic status as well, prolonged
over time. This is the first problem, which is about quantification
and how to do that, but then there is the question about our ability
to claim compensation given that, in the case of Oxfam, we are
working with a one million euro fund from the European Union.
Frankly, we feel that the responsibility lies with the institutions
who give that money. There is another problem because we are also
operating on general income, taxpayers' money, through those institutions
but also through private donations. We believe that there should
be effort by the institutions, particularly the government in
Israel who are responsible for operating under rules of engagement,
to account for damage that has been done. Our principal concern
is about the counterproductive nature of the measures that are
being taken. We have not focused so much on compensatory action.
We believe that institutions should take responsibility, principally
those institutions that provide the funds in the first place.
Mr Saunders: Also, there has been
recently considerable focus on the infrastructure but there is
a lot more wastage and destruction, of the human capacity, not
just in terms of lives and health but in terms of the whole economic
undermining, of the service providers who are constantly being
thwarted when making access to those services available. This
is all part of the wastage within the system that, as agencies,
we have over many years been providing and the British and other
governments have been supporting through aid.
Mr Bell: It is important to understand
sometimes the nature of the destruction. Often, Israel will engage
in security actions which it will explain in security terms but
it becomes very problematic to explain when you look at the grass
roots, at the closer level and at the actual destruction, apart
from what you can see very visibly such as municipal buildings,
where indeed there may have been either snipers or terrorists
who were attacking Israelis. 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.
There seems to be more. I am not going to suggest what it is but
a lot of it is about wanton destruction and the psychological
as well as the financial impact that that has on the communities
that people live in.
Dr Shadid: The destruction has
had a devastating effect on the Palestinian NGO community. After
the spring of 2002 and the reinvasion of all the West Bank, granting
countries decided to do damage assessment. As part of that effort,
we were asked to carry out damage assessment for the NGOs. We
found that 120 Palestinian NGOs incurred direct damage. 69 have
incurred damage to their property and assets of over $5,000. Some
of those NGOs like the Peace Dialogue Centre in Bethlehem have
incurred damage of about $200,000. A teachers' training centre
in Ramallah has incurred damage of about $25,000. The al-Sakakini
Cultural Centre in Ramallah has incurred about $15,000 of damage
and the wanton destruction of paintings in that cultural centre
is unbelievable. We have given support to 69 NGOs in restarting-up
so that they can resume their services to the community of half
a million dollars from DFID. All of them are grateful to you and
to your people for this support. That has really been of tremendous
help. 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.
Q92 John Barrett: Specifically, what
about the question of how the access to water resource has changed
over the past couple of years with the expansion of Israeli settlements,
roads and general access to water used for agriculture?
Mr Leach: With the closure, checkpoints,
blockages and so on, transportation costs for water have forced
up prices by as much as 80%. In some places, water supply has
been reduced by as much as 75%. Settlers in the West Bank consume
five times that of Palestinian villages. We are concerned that
water access in terms of quantity and quality has been seriously
damaged in the short term, and possibly permanently, for thousands
of people in the West Bank. We are concerned about two places
particularly. First of all, in the Jordan River basin, where 25%
of the population are Palestinian. They only enjoy 50% of their
rights to water because they have access to only 12% of water
supplies. In the Western ground water basin, the Palestinian Hydrology
Group, which is a Palestinian NGO with whom we work, estimates
that Palestinians will lose nearly 18% of their share of the water
basin as a result of the construction of the wall. What we have
witnessed over the last two years or so is a major decline in
access to water and also concern about the quality of water. From
69% of samples undertaken through a water survey by the Jenin
Municipality Water Department and the Ministry of Health, the
results were alarmingly high in terms of water borne disease.
The tests failed World Health Organisation standards. Water borne
disease is worsening. Deteriorating sewerage systems and so on
are making it increasingly serious for people and access to communities
to conduct surveys makes it hard to collect information and to
analyse it effectively. There is the additional problems that
I described earlier in relation to disposal of waste.
Q93 John Barrett: What can be done
that would help improve the situation of access to water by the
Mr Leach: We have talked during
this discussion about the fundamental problem. The concern we
face and facing this Committee is that it is relatively easy to
talk about measures that can be taken, but fundamentally we believe
and we know that the situation has got worse for people. The situation
now requires a political solution and alternatives to security
measures which are counterproductive and not delivering the security
for Israelis and that are producing a much more serious crisis
for Palestinians and Israelis. We can talk about measures to ease
closure, which we believe should happen, with immediate effect.
We think there should also be immediate efforts to end the construction
of the wall and to remove the wall that has been constructed.
We think this has to be put into the context of measures to find
alternative solutions to the fundamental problems.
Q94 Chairman: We did not go to Gaza
this time but many of us have been to Gaza and the West Bank and
one of the things which struck us was the huge number of NGOs.
Many of the Palestinian NGOs are funded by international NGOs.
I am a little unclear as to how they plumbed into civil society,
how representative they are, who are they representative of and
how civil society expressed itself in the Palestinian territories.
We were slightly concerned when we met the Palestinian Minister
of Education who expressed concerns that the international community
and some of the donors switched their funding to what he described
as "academic" projects by NGOs. By that he meant projects
which included democracy building, good governance and so forth,
rather than simply service provision. How do you see yourselves
and other NGOs working to strengthen Palestinian civil society
and promote democracy within the Palestinian territories? Is it
possible to connect with Palestinian civil society in a manner
which enhances participation and is reflective of a Palestinian
democratic tradition? Is there a choice that has to be made between
advocacy, long term development and service delivery, or do you
see all these dimensions as being equally important?
Dr Shadid: The impression that
some of the funding will go to advocacy or academic research is
understandable because there is so much need for services. The
concern is a valid concern. However, there should be balance in
terms of funding where the national authority is capable. They
should be funded to pay for the services they are expected provide
for their own people. There are certain areas they cannot reach
because of restrictions on movement and NGOs can reach those situations.
This is where NGO funding is useful and should be provided. There
has to be a coordinated effort and transparency in terms of aid.
Some granting governmentsnot the UKrefuse to channel
any aid through Palestinian national authorities who have to pay
the salaries of school teachers and even some universities. How
do we deal with civil society and advocacy and supporting civil
society? If we come to a child in a village and tell him we want
to teach him about democracy, he will tell us to go home because
he sees what is happening to him on the ground. He sees there
is no international action taking place. He sees that he was born
under occupation, that occupation has been tolerated by the international
community for 35 years and that another occupation, in Kuwait,
was not tolerated for one year. This is a double standard, so
he does not want to hear about democracy. How do we deal with
that? We deal with that through providing service delivery provisions
for NGOs, coupled with capacity building in terms of governance,
training people and community participation in the development
of projects, their own needs assessment and community participation
in the ownership of those projects. That is direct, practical
aid. Meanwhile, when we talk about democracy, if they act democratically
in their own organisation with regular elections and membership
being openthis is what we demand from NGOs that we supportwe
believe this is a mechanism that is useful and helpful and deserves
lots of support.
Mr Bell: It is important to note
the situationnot that we can fail to notice itunder
which the Palestinian NGOs operate. That has been one since 1967
of Israeli occupation and, before that, Jordanian and Egyptian
occupation, although they might call it something different but
that is effectively what it was. Civil society has a strong history
of development and many people will say that Palestinians represent
some of the most educated people within the Middle East. They
have a strong tradition of education because of the strength of
civil society. With the advent of the Oslo accords and, if you
like, the parachuting in of the Palestinian Authority, obviously
that has been a challenge to Palestinian civil society. There
is a growing degree of harmonisation between the two communities
but it is still a very young process. To reiterate what Mohammed
was saying, it is very difficult to talk to people about democracy
and the need for participation when they see no hope, so it is
very difficult for them to think in democratic terms. Also, they
have had no participation in terms of the bigger ideas that have
gone on to dictate their lives. There was very little participation
of grass roots society or civil society, if you like, with the
Oslo accords. All those negotiations were conducted externally.
The refugee population within Lebanon, Syria and Jordan were not
consulted. The people of Gaza and the West Bank were not consulted.
That has caused friction. Undoubtedly, yes, there is an unusual
proliferation of NGOs within the West Bank and that is because
of the difficulties of association. For example, let us take PARC,
the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee. They have two headquarters,
essentially. The main headquarters is in Jerusalem but they also
have what is a growing headquarters in Gaza because the two organisations
can physically never meet because they are unable to get from
Gaza to the West Bank. People do have in localised areas a need
for what is, to all intents and purposes, a proliferation of committees,
but it is easy to see how that has happened and that is because
of the political landscape that has dominated the region for years.
Q95 Chairman: Just before Adam and
Chris respond, we understand the difficulties on the ground. I
think my question was more directed to this: how do you help?
One understands all the problems, but how do you helpdo
you help or are you able to helpbuild up Palestinian civil
society capacity? Otherwise you are just going to have a completely
dependent society at every level. We asked UNRWA what they were
doing, because they have been there since 1948, and one of the
answers one of them gave was "Actually, the Palestinians
trust us more than they do the Palestinian Authority." So
I think there are concerns about whom represents whom. How do
you getgiven all the difficulties on the groundsome
degree of legitimacy of who is expressing views to what and how
do you get some capacity building within civil society?
Mr Leach: I think the issue is
an extremely important one, and I am glad that it has been raised,
because I think it is very important that we ask appropriate questions
for the situation. I think it is very important that we do not
"exceptionalise" this situation, that we do not pathologise
it so that the sort of question that you are asking gets treated
somehow differently from any other part of the world where people
have rights to representation and participation that are respected
as a straightforward normality, even if it is difficult to change
power structures. We are all extremely perplexed by this prolonged
"exceptionalisation" of this situationif you
will pardon the wordbut the fact is that we work in a very
fragmented context, one in which normal measures cannot be pursued
because we have to go to extraordinary lengths to find ways around
the obstacles and obstructions. I think some of the examples that
we used about the prevention of Palestinians, who are working
for international organisations as well as independently, simply
moving around is a gross problem. What we are trying to do, for
example, is to provide ways to support Palestinian organisations
(I mentioned the Palestinian Hydrology Group, for example, and
other examples have been given) to increase technical capacity
and know-how to be able to provide services. We employ a majority
of Palestinians for that purpose and we also involve them in our
full range of processes including advocacy, and we are also trying
to make our work in that situationand, therefore, the lives
and issues and interests of Palestiniansrelevant to wider
issues, and wider issues relevant to them. So, for example, we
have supported Palestinian participation in preparation meetings
for WTO summits. A particular issue, of course, is engagement
in the search for alternative solutions and, specifically, some
kind of international mechanism for protection under international
humanitarian law that can create stability and accountable institutions.
In other words, we are trying to find ways to include Palestinians
in wider debates that are pertinent to a normalisation of the
situation. The other thing that is important to stress is the
point that I think William made which is about the need to work
across civil society in both societies, not just in the Palestinian
civil society but in Israel as well with Israeli organisations
and Palestinian organisations. Oxfam GB and other Oxfams are working
with organisations in that society as well, as are other UK organisations.
Mr Saunders: We are talking about
a proliferation of both international and national non-government
organisations working in the occupied territories and obviously
there are exceedingly good and less good organisations within
that mass. I think, 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. It is such so fundamental to the way that we work.
However, there are some organisations that do not do it that way
and some organisations that are not recipient of that approach.
Chairman: Thank you very much.