Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

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 obvious—they 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 work—long term development is still possible and essential. The one point I want to accentuate here is that however difficult it is—and it is difficult—long term development is essential as long as it is coupled with 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 communities concerned.

  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 ground—i.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 organisations—I am thinking of the Negotiation Support Unit which has funding from the UK—but 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 current situation?

  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 Commons—that same day—was 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 did.

  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 Jerusalem—and they are excellent, by the way—accepted 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 Nablus—some of you have visited and seen the road—it 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 wasteful.

  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 amongst Palestinians.

  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 others—the PWA in particular—that 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 father is.

  Q91  John Barrett: If I could move on to the question of the destruction of infrastructure by the Israeli military—schools, clinics, and Gaza Airport—the 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 Palestinians?

  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 governments—not the UK—refuse 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 open—this is what we demand from NGOs that we support—we believe this is a mechanism that is useful and helpful and deserves lots of support.

  Mr Bell: It is important to note the situation—not that we can fail to notice it—under 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 help—do you help or are you able to help—build 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 get—given all the difficulties on the ground—some 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 situation—if you will pardon the word—but 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 situation—and, therefore, the lives and issues and interests of Palestinians—relevant 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.

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