Support to the West Bank will help Palestinians stay on their land

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Sida’s support to Area C in the West Bank shall help improve the Palestinian living conditions and livelihoods. Through the support from Western donors, the Palestinian Authority can increase its influence in the occupied territory and make it possible for Palestinians to stay on their land.

"The Palestinian Authority cannot do anything in Area C without the permission from Israel, whether it is about building a small toilet in a school or putting up solar panels on the rooftops of a village," says Sufian Mushasha at UNDP, who is implementing the Community Resilience and Development Programme for Area C & East Jerusalem (CRDP) in cooperation with Sida.

Area C, which constitutes a total of 62 per cent of the West Bank, mainly consists of land outside Palestinian cities and villages. In accordance with the Oslo Agreement, the area was to remain under Israeli control for five years only, but 20 years later, it is still controlled by the Israeli military. The number of Israeli settlers in the area today by far exceeds the number of Palestinians.

An annual contribution of 30 million SEK makes Sida the largest donor in the programme, which is the first of its kind. In addition to the financial contribution, the political support from Sweden, UK and other donors is extremely important. The donors, together with NGOs that will carry out the activities, can hold a more constructive dialogue with the Israeli authorities than the Palestinians would be able to do. After a first phase of assessment of people’s needs, different activities will now be launched as part of the programme.

"It is all about increasing the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in activities in Area C and East Jerusalem and increasing the Palestinians’ ability to stay in the area. For example, by generating electricity through solar panels from the rooftops, creating playgrounds for children, expanding schools or hiring a gynaecologist in health clinics so that women can give birth there instead of getting stuck at a checkpoint. We need to be flexible and creative, and focus on activities that can be implemented quickly and focus on long-term development needs of those living in the area rather than limiting our assistance to their basic current humanitarian needs," says Sufian Mushasha.

The first important step of the programme has already been achieved: the creation of a Palestinian mechanism that can give the Palestinian Authority more influence over their areas. Area C is a necessary component to cater for Palestinian population growth and economy should the two-state solution ever become a reality.

One of the consequences of the occupation is that it is nearly impossible to get a permit to build schools or health clinics in Area C. Lack of education, health services and job opportunities in the area has therefore led to many Palestinians leaving their homes. Water supply is another important issue. While houses in the settlements can have pools in the garden, the Palestinian villages surrounding them often lack running water. Israeli settlements are constantly expanding, which further limits the ability of Palestinians to move and travel. Barriers and safety zones make it extremely difficult for farmers to cultivate their land, harvest their produce and sell them. This breaks down people’s will in the end, making them give up.

"Today a farmer can be forced to sit at a checkpoint all day, while his vegetables rot in the sun, because the soldier doesn’t want to let him through," explains Sufian Mushasha.

Support to the development of Area C has been a sensitive issue for a long time, and the donor community's support has so far focused on humanitarian aid. If the Palestinians get access to the economically important natural resources, or the fertile farmland in the area, the need for aid assistance could decline.

About the CRDP programme:

The goal of Community Resilience and Development Programme for Area C and East Jerusalem is to safeguard Palestinian livelihood and enable Palestinians to stay on their land.

The programme will contribute to:

  • preventing the erosion of living conditions of Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem that undermines their development capital;
  • protecting Palestinian land and property in Area C and East Jerusalem; and
  • mitigating and ideally reversing migration flow from Area C and East Jerusalem by enhancing human security and livelihood of Palestinians.

The CRDP is the result of a fruitful collaboration between the Palestinian National Authority’s Ministry of Planning and Administrative Development (MOPAD), the United Nations Development Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP), and the government of Sweden through Sida, with its contribution of 90 million SEK. The UK government also provides funding to the programme with more donors pledging their support in the near future.