Q&A: UK's Department for International Development on why the UK should continue its aid programme to Palestinians

04-05-2016 17:54

Source: UK Parliament

International Development questions
Wednesday May 4th 11.30 am
Question 8: Ian Austin (Dudley North): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of her Department's spending in the Palestinian Territories in achieving its aims.
Question 12: Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton): What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the most vulnerable people in developing countries have access to adequate hygiene and sanitation.
Question 8
MPs from Conservative or Labour Friends of Israel regularly ask about the UK's £90 million annual aid programme to Palestine, sometimes questioning how effective it is and sometimes asking if any of it ends up in the hands of "terrorists".
Aid minister Desmond Swayne tells them that each new project is approved on the basis of a value-for-money assessment and anyone can monitor their effectivess on his department's 'development tracker' website. Read here. 
He also insists that the Department for International Development takes extensive precautions to ensure that its aid programme conforms with the law on terrorist financing and that Hamas does not derive any benefit from it. Read here. 
The MPs go on to argue that, although it doesn't go directly to "terrorists", about £30 million goes to the Palestinian Authority and as a result the PA can use more of its own income to make welfare payments to families of Palestinian prisoners. 
There are four answers to this:
The first is humanitarian."The PA operates social assistance programmes to provide welfare payments to households who have lost their main breadwinner. I hope you will also agree that dependent spouses or children should not be held responsible for the crimes of family members, or forced to live in poverty as a consequence" - former aid minister Sir Alan Duncan.  
The second is also humanitarian. Israeli prisons fail to provide adequate food and shelfter for their 6,000 Palestinian prisoners forcing them to rely on food and clothing brought by relatives who in turn have no income. 
"The military prison authority provides detainees with basic food rations once a month. The provided rations do not meet necessary daily requirements, both in terms of quality and nutritional value." Addameer
"Prison conditions in Israeli military detention camps are inhumane. Detainees are held in overcrowded prison tents that are often threadbare and do not provide for adequate shelter against extreme weather. Prisoners are not provided adequate food rations, neither in quantity nor quality, nor provided with clean clothes or adequate cleaning supplies." If Americans Knew
"The prisons are overcrowded and do not provide adequate shelter against extreme weather; food rations are poor in both quantity and quality, often spoiled or infected with insects and worms; and clean clothes and adequate supplies (such as blankets, mattresses or sanitary cells) are lacking. Many of the prisons are infected with mice and cockroaches and do not have enough, or even proper, ventilation." Miftah
The third is political. The Palestinian Authority is answerable to Palestinians and it has no intention of abandoning the families of prisoners. As Daniel Levy of the European Council on Foreign Relations explained to MPs on the Commons International Development Committee:
"The idea that you could have, at this stage in the conflict, a Palestinian Authority that does not treat its prisoners in a certain way, I do not think can exist with the reality we are in.
"If you asked the Northern Ireland warring parties to disavow the people of violence at the wrong moment in that process, one would have undermined that process...
"We de-Palestinianise the PA at our own peril, because the less credibility and legitimacy we impose on it vis-a-vis its own public, the less useful it is, to be honest, for the main purpose it is designed for, which is to be a vehicle for making a peace deal." Committee report 
The fourth is economic. Palestine would not need any aid from the UK or anywhere else if the Israelis lifted their restrictions on the Palestinian economy.
As the aid minister Sir Alan Duncan said in March 2014: "A 2011 International Monetary Fund report estimated that without movement and access restrictions the Palestinian economy would be 78% larger in terms of GDP a year, amounting to about $6.3 billion. That would remove its dependence on aid."
Palestinians are entrepreneurial and their economy is very resilient in spite of the crippling burden of the blockade of Gaza and the Israeli theft of land, water and resources in the West Bank, which alone was estimated by the World Bank to cost $3.4 billion a year or 35% of Palestine's GDP. 
The UK's £90 million Palestinian aid budget is a subsidy not so much to Palestinians as to the Israeli government whose obligation it is under international law to shoulder all the costs of occupation. But in this respect it is not just ineffective but counterproductive.
Question 12
A group of charities working on hygiene and sanitation in Gaza, the EWASH (Emergency, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) group, reported recently:
WATER AGREEMENTS LEAVING PALESTINIANS WITH TOO LITTLE WATER: The basis of water access between Israel and Palestine is fundamentally unequal. The Oslo II Interim Accords of 1995 left Israel in control over almost all shared water resources, but it was supposed to be temporary. Today, 20 years later, Palestinian water allocations are still capped at 1995 levels despite the Palestinian population having doubled since then. Palestinians in the West Bank nowadays extract not more than 10% of the shared water resources (10 to 20% less than what they were allocated in 1995) due to the Israeli restrictions on the development of essential Palestinian water infrastructure and its exploitation of the shared Mountain Aquifer. Palestinians also have no access to the Jordan River, located all along the Palestinian-Jordanian border.
THE DEPLETION OF THE COASTAL AQUIFER: Gaza’s share of the Coastal Aquifer, the only available source of freshwater in the Gaza Strip, is not sufficient to serve alone the needs of the Gaza’s population. The Aquifer is being over-exploited by up to three times its sustainable yield. Decades of over-pumping as well as the contamination resulting from the intrusion of wastewater, agrochemicals and saline water have put the aquifer in danger of irreparable damage. 96% of the water extracted from the Costal Aquifer is already unfit for human consumption. The UN and the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) estimate that the aquifer will become completely unusable as soon as 2016. 95% of Gaza’s population depends on desalinated water purchased from private vendors for drinking: 68% of this water contains bio-contaminants, yet its price is so prohibitive that the most vulnerable households in Gaza end up spending up to a third of their income on water.
Topical/supplementary question on Paris talks
At the last DfID questions on March 16 aid minister Desmond Swayne answered a supplementary question from Tom Brake (Lib Dem) on whether it was time the UK recognised Palestine as a sovereign state.
MPs will have a chance to ask another supplementary on Wednesday on whether the UK will be represented ay the Foreign Ministers meeting in Paris on May 30th in advance of the French-sponsored peace conference in September. 
The French have said if the talks do not lead to a new peace initiative by the end of this year, they will recognise Palestine. Up to eight other European countries, including Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg, are thinking of following suit.
As the new session of Parliament starts on May 18, this is probably the last chance to ask whether the UK will take part in the Paris meeting and will join in a synchonised move to recognise Palestine if the talks do not materialise.
Has your MP signed these three motions?
MPs who are not able to attend DfID questions can show their concern by signing the parliamentary motion on the demolition of Palestinian homes sponsored by the Conservative MP Sir Alan Duncan. It currently has 54 signatures.
They can also sign EDM 1378 calling for the release of Marwan Barghouthi, which currently has 35 signatures, and EDM 1377 on Israeli attacks on human rights organisations, which has 27. 
The final date for signing Early Day Motions is the day before Parliament breaks up before the Queens Speech on May 18:
DfID minister Baroness Verma in the Lords on March 2nd:  "The EU is proposing to reassess their position on seeking compensation from the Israeli Government... The UK government remains extremely concerned by reports that there have been nearly 300 demolitions since the start of 2016, representing more than a trebling of demolitions compared to the monthly average in 2015. The Embassy in Tel Aviv have recently raised demolitions with the Israeli authorities and will continue to raise this at the political level."

Topics : #UK #Palestine #Israel #Europe #EU #Uk Parliament #International Development #UK aid programme to Palestine

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