The UNDPís Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People

 

The following is the fifth in a series of articles being presented by Palestine & The UN regarding United Nations committees and bodies specifically related to the question of Palestine.The articles focus on the establishment of those committees and bodies, as well as their histories, mandates, work and compositions. The fifth to be reviewed in this series is the United Nations Development Programme/Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP).

 

††††††††††† In 1976, the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) adopted resolution 2026, entitled ďAssistance to the Palestinian PeopleĒ, in which the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), specialized agencies, and other organizations within the U.N. system were invited, as a matter of urgency and in coordination with the Economic Commission for Western Asia (ECWA, now ESCWA), to intensify their efforts in identifying the social and economic needs of the Palestinian people.Further, they were requested ďto consult and cooperate with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the representative of the Palestinian people, with a view to establishing and implementing concrete projects to ensure the improvement of the social and economic conditions of the Palestinian people.Ē

 

††††††††††† This was followed by the adoption of General Assembly resolution 33/147 of 20 December 1978, in which the Assembly specifically called upon the UNDP to provide assistance to the Palestinian people.The resolution marked the beginning of the UNDPís development activities on behalf of the Palestinian people and led to the creation of the UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP).

 

††††††††††† After consideration of a 1979 report by an interagency task force that identified Palestinian socioeconomic needs and a list of projects, the UNDP Governing Council adopted a decision (79/18 of June 1979) authorizing the Administrator, then Mr. Bradford Morse, to draw upon the programmeís reserve for the financing of projects recommended for assistance to the Palestinian people.Following the initial authorization to draw funds for PAPP, the Administrator began an extensive series of consultations with the concerned parties regarding the proposed projects.

 

In September 1980, the Programme began formal operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) after an exchange of letters between Israel, the occupying Power, and the UNDP.Thus, aside from UNRWA, the UNDP became the only U.N. agency operating in the occupied territories.However, unlike UNRWA, which has never been obliged to submit its plans of action within the refugee camps to the Israeli authorities for prior approval, UNDP/PAPP was at the time required to do so for all projects it intended to undertake.UNDP maintained that it had to accept such a formula because without it the UNDP would not have been permitted access by the occupying Power. As a result of this arrangement and other Israeli policies, PAPPís extensive work in providing assistance to the Palestinian people has not been without obstacles, often hampered by the policies of the Israeli occupation from the very start of the Programmeís operation.

 

††††††††††† Following the start of PAPPís formal operations in 1980, the UNDP Administrator designated Mr. John Olver as the first coordinator of UNDP/PAPP, with the understanding that the Administrator would ultimately bear full responsibility for all aspects of the program.In 1981, UNDP/PAPP officially established an office in East Jerusalem to oversee project implementation.At a later stage, UNICEF and other U.N. agencies and programmes set up local offices under UNDP/PAPP auspices, which meant that their operations were considered by the occupying Power to be part of UNDP operations.

Financially, only a modest share of UNDP/PAPP was financed from UNDPís overall administrative budget, and it received funds from UNDPís special programme resources.The bulk of financing for PAPP projects has traditionally come from the international donor community donors on the basis multi-bifinancing or management services agreements. Administratively, PAPP has remained under the direct supervision of the office of the UNDP Administrator and has remained outside the UNDP Arab States Bureau.

 

††††††††††† Since UNDP/PAPPís inception, many changes have taken place in the programmes operation, particularly after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the new situation that evolved thereafter. After the signing of the Declaration of Principles in 1993, PAPPís resources practically tripled as the number of donors pledging support for the peace process increased. Currently, Japan is the largest single contributor to PAPP, followed by the countries of the European Union.Further, after thorough consultations, the UNDP, led by then-Administrator Mr. James Gustave Speth, signed an agreement on 9 May 1994 with the PLO, which is very similar to the basic standard agreements governing the relationship between the UNDP and other U.N. Member States.Both developments ushered in a new chapter in PAPPís work.

 

Today, UNDP/PAPP is headed by a Special Representative of the UNDP Administrator, Mr. Mark Malloch Brown.The current Special Representative is Mr. Timothy S. Rothermel, who has been with PAPP since its inception, and is posted in UNDPís Jerusalem office.Also, the UNDP recently established a new post in Gaza to directly follow-up PAPPís activities in the area.

 

In 1999, UNDP/PAPP commemorated twenty years in operation, establishing itself as the leading development organization in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, with about $300 million in resources invested through the Programme to date.On the occasion of UNDP/PAPPís 20th anniversary and its 20 year partnership with the Palestinian people, which was commemorated with ceremonies in Jerusalem and Gaza and at U.N. headquarters in New York, President Arafat acknowledged the important work and immense contributions of PAPP.In a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General on the occasion, he expressed the Palestinian peopleís genuine appreciation for the role that UNDP/PAPP has played in actively supporting essential economic, developmental, and infrastructure projects in all areas towards improving the living standards of the Palestinian people and towards the reconstruction of Palestine.

 

PAPPís projects have all focused on development activities of the greatest need for the Palestinian people, including projects in the following sectors: water and sanitation, employment generation, agriculture, health, education and vocational training, industry, rural development, youth, sports, and social development, housing, institution building, capacity building for municipalities, human and gender development, governance and public administration, civil defense, energy, environment, and Bethlehem 2000/culture.

 

Although projects are larger in some sectors as opposed to others, the scope of PAPPís work is clearly quite diverse and extensive. In fact, PAPP currently reports that it has over $145 million in ongoing projects active in every part of the West Bank and Gaza.It is important to note that the projects carried out by UNDP/PAPP in all sectors include infrastructure works, which are badly needed following the devastation of the socioeconomic infrastructure during the decades of occupation.Moreover, PAPP is one of the few UNDP offices in the world involved in capital assistance along with traditional UNDP technical assistance.

 

Significantly, in recent years, efforts have been made to correlate PAPPís work to the official Palestinian Development Plan, responding directly to the development priorities emphasized by the various ministries of the PA as well as those of civil organizations in the OPT.The Programme works closely in particular with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation as well as with the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Health, Tourism and Antiquities, Economy and Trade, and Local Government.It has also worked with agencies such as the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian Environmental Authority and the Water Authority. UNDP/PAPP also cooperates with other U.N. agencies operating in the OPT, particularly by means of coordination through the office of the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority (UNSCO). In this connection, an interagency meeting is periodically convened with the attendance of Palestinian officials.

 

This high degree of coordination is a hallmark of PAPPís work.To ensure sustainability of projects, all PAPP planning and implementation is coordinated with the donor community, recipients, and implementing organizations, thus also ensuring integrated operations and avoiding duplication of efforts.

 

As for its operating staff, UNDP/PAPP employs 130 staff members in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the majority of whom are Palestinian.Furthermore, an important element of this assistance programme is PAPPís utilization of local resources and labor in its projects as a means of addressing the serious problems of high unemployment and declining incomes among the Palestinian people.In this way, PAPP has had a direct and positive impact on the Palestinian economy.Aside from using Palestinian contractors and expertise and purchasing materials from Palestinian suppliers, labor-intensive projects for infrastructure building have generated tens of thousands of jobs for Palestinians.At the same time, many of these jobs have served a dual purpose in providing on-the-job training of new skills.

 

Over its years of operation, PAPP has invested millions in the building of schools, water and sanitation systems, municipal facilities, roads, hospital wings, industrial sites, and market places.In addition, it has invested millions in building the human and organizational capacity of the Palestinian people in the OPT.PAPP efforts at capacity building have involved in particular professional and skills-training support, engineering support, and managerial, technical and specialized training for civil servants.These efforts have mainly targeted the ministries of the PA, local government, local NGOs, and other public and private institutions.

 

To provide such training and support, UNDP/PAPP utilizes the expertise of other specialized agencies of the U.N. operating in the area as well as the expertise provided by international donors.In fact, UNDP/PAPP can draw, whenever necessary, on expertise in the U.N. system or in the private sector from any country.Additionally, another important means of providing support is the UNDPís TOKTEN program, which stands for ďTransfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate NationalsĒ.

 

Utilizing TOKTEN, PAPP draws upon the talents and expertise that exists among the over 4 million Palestinians in the Diaspora community who are interested in contributing to the peace-building and development process in their homeland. This program has been a valuable resource in the capacity and institution building process for the nascent Palestinian nation.Since PAPP instituted the TOKTEN program in 1995, over 200 Palestinian women and men from outside the OPT have volunteered their expertise in a variety of disciplines to strengthen Palestinian institutions, including, inter alia, in the areas of civil aviation, education, public health, and information technology. These individuals have conducted advisory and planning missions, on-the-job training, and studies and research for over 40 Palestinian counterpart organizations, contributing to the overall impressive accomplishments of UNDP/PAPP over the years.