Facts about Palestine
Since 2010, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has made significant progress in the establishment of governmental institutions. This is essential with a view to future independent statehood.
The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the UN have ascertained that the authorities are ready to assume responsibility for the state. On the other hand, little progress has been made in the peace process with Israel. The budget support enables the state apparatus to operate until such time as a peace agreement becomes a reality.
For the Palestinians, the most difficult questions are linked to the Israeli occupation and continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The blockade of Gaza has restricted the population’s opportunities for mobility and hampers economic activity.
The situation in Gaza has deteriorated dramatically as a result of the war in the summer of 2014, lasting 51 days. The war led to major destruction of housing, schools, businesses and other infrastructure, as well as great human suffering.
According to the UN, more than 2200 Palestinians lost their lives, of whom 70 per cent were civilians, and more than 11.200 were recorded as injured. Today many are still homeless, unemployment is high, and there is a great need to rebuild the infrastructure.
Slower than expected
The reconstruction in Gaza is proceeding more slowly than expected. This is primarily due to the Israeli blockade, but also to the lack of practical steps for the reintegration of Fatah and Hamas as well as the donors’ failure to fulfil their promises of money for reconstruction made at the Cairo Conference.
Israel is now permitting some building materials to be imported to Gaza through a mechanism initiated by the UN. This has enabled repairs, but until now no rebuilding of completely destroyed buildings and infrastructure. The building materials brought in and their use are controlled by Israel, and the coordination is complex and time-consuming.
Until now, the quantity of intermediate goods that has been imported to Gaza is insufficient to reconstruct what was destroyed during the war, and there is still a lack of financing to rebuild housing.
GDP in Gaza decreased by 15 per cent in 2014 and unemployment has reached 43 per cent – probably the highest in the world, according to the World Bank. Now that the Rafah border crossing and the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt are closed, Gaza is completely dependent on Israel allowing the transportation of people, imports and exports over the borders between Israel and Gaza to a far greater degree than is the case today.
Norwegian development cooperation with Palestine
The three main priority areas for Norway’s development cooperation with Palestine in 2014 were budget support, reconstruction of Gaza and education. Since the general liquidity crisis affecting the PA is a threat to state-building, the Norwegian budget support is considered a decisive contribution to maintaining this work. The budget support finances current national budget expenditure, including salaries.
As chair of the AHLC donor coordination group, Norway pursues its particular role with regard to international donor coordination.
I 2014, Norway provided NOK 269 million in budget support which is channelled through the World Bank’s multi-donor trust fund. The objective is state-building and helping to maintain important state institutions in Palestine.
The budget support goes towards financing regular costs to the state budget, of which salaries for PA employees represent approximately half. In total the PA received around USD 1 billion in budget support from various countries.
In 2014, the PA demonstrated progress in some areas, but setbacks in others. It implemented significant legal reforms to close tax loopholes, but did not, for example, manage to achieve the budget goals for salary growth in the public sector, electricity payments to Israel or medical referrals.
Lower tax revenues
Positive progress with regard to tax collection in Palestine in the first quarter was later reversed, and the PA ended the year with lower tax revenues than in 2013, with the poorest development in the fourth quarter. This lack of results may partly be attributed to Israeli actions on the West Bank in April and May and the Gaza war in June‒August.
The PA’s economic situation was approximately the same in 2014 as in 2013, but year-end growth was negative. The PA remains completely dependent on external aid to maintain operations and delivery of basic services to the population. The main reasons are the Israeli occupation, which imposes restrictions on trade, movement and access to most of the Palestinian territories, and the split between Gaza and the West Bank. Altogether 40 per cent of the PA’s costs are allocated to Gaza, but no revenues are received in return.
Reconstruction in Gaza
The reconstruction in Gaza includes both financing of an import and control mechanism for goods, and humanitarian support through the UN and civil society.
Norwegian People’s Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC) and Save the Children have extensive country programmes in Palestine in the fields of education, health, agriculture, human rights and protection. These programmes are implemented on the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza.
All these organizations played a key role in the early recovery work in Gaza immediately following the war, and identify and cover areas which the large UN organizations are unable to cover.
NORWAC arranged for the provision of much-needed drugs and medical equipment for Shifa Hospital in Gaza during the war, and the treatment of injuries after the war in collaboration with Shifa hospital and Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem.
Through its chairmanship of Shelter Cluster in Palestine, the Norwegian Refugee Council has ensured good coordination of the shelter sector in Gaza since the war.
Norway plays a significant role in the area of education, as a traditional contributor and part of a broad international cooperation. The work has yielded positive results.
The Norwegian support to education in Palestine is channelled through a joint funding agreement between Norway, Germany, Ireland, Belgium and Finland. The Norwegian support has contributed to:
- high school attendance in basic education
- an increase in qualified teachers
- increased oversight, monitoring and evaluation
- an improvement in the proportion of students who completed national examinations
The main challenges in the education sector continue to be student dropout from upper secondary education, particularly of boys. The Israeli occupation and blockade of Gaza, in addition to the PA’s limited possibility of running schools in Area C and East Jerusalem continue to represent a challenge.
In 2014, the Palestinian Authority approved a strategic plan for education, prioritizing the development of course syllabuses, administrative reform and school restructuring. The plan provides the basis for institutionalization of results-based management at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
The plan will also contribute to accountability on the part of the authorities through a shift towards programmes based on service deliveries. Within the three priority areas, good results have been achieved with regard to school restructuring, but little has been achieved in the development of course syllabuses and administrative reform.
The main results of the support in 2014:
- Ten new schools have been built and equipped on the West Bank.
- A total of 20 existing schools on the West Bank have been extended and equipped.
- Maintenance work has been carried out in 23 schools on the West Bank.
- A total of 1 671 school staff received qualified training and certification.
- A new vocational school for both sexes was opened in September 2014.
- Approximately 70 per cent of students passed the national examination (Tawjihi examination). The results were analysed at national and district level.
- The Ministry of Education and Higher Education is the first Palestinian ministry to have undergone a revision of its activities in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
- Following the Gaza conflict, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education carried out repairs and maintenance in 29 damaged schools. Ongoing work is being carried out in 151 schools, in addition to 40 schools that are undergoing planning and preparation.
Through the United Nations Development Programme, the Norwegian Representative Office has also financed a new building which will house a lower secondary school for boys in East Jerusalem.
Norwegian support for the education sector amounted to NOK 15 million in 2014.
Since 2012, Norway has supported an institution-building project to establish a national institute of public health in Palestine. The three-year project is a cooperation between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and WHO, with the long-term goal of establishing an institute of public health.
A national institute of public health is important to strengthen national knowledge and capacity, develop an effective national public health protection agency, follow up international health obligations to ensure good public health, and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
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Norad supports the strengthening of civil society through ten Norwegian organizations in Palestine: Norwegian People’s Aid, the Norwegian Red Cross, Save the Children Norway, the Atlas Alliance, Norwegian Church Aid, Digni, YWCA-YMCA Guides and Scouts of Norway, Right to Play, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), and Quaker Service Norway.
These organizations received a total of almost NOK 44 million in 2014. The organizations work through local partners for rehabilitation, peace and reconciliation work, democratization, human rights and education.
As part of the Atlas Alliance, the Norwegian Association of Disabled has achieved good results in its rehabilitation programme for disabled persons.