oPt

Sida signs development cooperation agreement with the Palestinians

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Sida signed a development cooperation agreement with the PLO Thursday, April 19, confirming formal cooperation with the Palestinian people. Contributions will focus primarily on promoting peace, building up the nation and alleviating the consequences of the conflict.

"The agreement with the PLO makes Sida's development cooperation to the Palestinian areas more predictable and long term. This gives the Palestinians greater opportunities to promote democracy and human rights, create jobs and strengthen their work for peace. It will benefit the Palestinian population," said Sida's Director-General Maria Norrfalk.

"We need to pull together and deliver schools, infrastructure, electricity, democracy and rights to the Palestinian people. We can deliver this with good planning. That is why we appreciate this agreement," said Saeb Erakat, the PLO's head negotiator for the agreement.

The agreement was drawn up after the Swedish Government decided on a new strategy for the West Bank and Gaza. The agreement covers 160 million SEK, which is slightly less than half of Sida's development cooperation with the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the funds are channelled through the UN, the World Bank, the EU and local and international NGOs.

"It is important that we hold an active dialogue with the Palestinians. With the agreement, Sweden marks the importance of supporting the peace work. It is a pre-condition for long-term development and poverty reduction in the West Bank and Gaza," said Norrfalk.

The effects of Israel's blockading policy, reduced inflow of international cooperation and frozen wages for the Palestinian authorities' employees have resulted in a serious humanitarian crisis. More than 70 percent of the population live in poverty.

"There is a great need to improve basic health care, availability of food and water, job opportunities and the chances for children to go to school. The ever-present violence, occupation and obvious hopelessness affect children, in particular, badly," said Norrfalk.

Swedish, local and international organisations such as Palestinagrupperna, Diakonia, Save the Children Fund and the Red Cross are working to promote democratic development and increase respect for human rights. The organisations also work to improve health care and support the role of women's organisations in peace-building efforts. This has resulted in an increase in public opinion for a peaceful solution in Israel and Palestine. An important part of this is Sida's support to a media institute in Palestine.

The support, which is channelled through the UN, the World Bank and the EU is aimed primarily at education, electricity and water supply.

For more information: Contact Sida's Press Office at 08-698 55 55.