Summary of publication
This report summarises the performance of Australia's aid program in the Palestinian Territories (PTs) from July 2018 to June 2019 against the Aid Investment Plan (AIP) for the Palestinian Territories (2015-2019).
The PTs – consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – remain one of the poorest regions in the Middle East. Palestinian living standards continue to decline. Economic growth continues to stall in both the West Bank and Gaza but conditions are most acute in Gaza, with unemployment at 52 per cent in 2018 (up from 44 per cent in 2017). Gaza has undergone 'de-development' over the last two decades, accompanied by a decline of real income per capita by a third since 1994. GDP in Gaza declined by six per cent in 2018. The restrictions on movement of people and goods in to and out of Gaza continued to be a key factor in its economic deterioration. The 'March of Return' protests and intermittent escalations on the Gaza perimeter also contributed to a worsening of the humanitarian situation in 2018-19. The supply of water and electricity to Gaza continued to be a major issue and much of the water supply in Gaza remained unfit for human consumption.
The political dynamic between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the political stalemate between the PA and Hamas continued to affect economic and social development in the PTs during 2018-19. The dispute between the PA and Israel over tax revenue transfers had a significant impact on the PA's budget in 2018-19. The continuing decline in foreign aid to the PTs also had an impact on the situation in the PTs. Shortfalls in funding for UNRWA, including due to the US ceasing its financial support in 2018, had an impact on the provision of healthcare and education for Palestinians across the PTs.
In December 2018, Australia reiterated its commitment to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state exist side –by-side, in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders. Australia also acknowledges the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Australia provided $38.3 million in humanitarian and development assistance to the PTs in 2018-19, as a practical demonstration of our long-standing support for the Middle East peace process1.
Australian aid equates to 0.17 per cent of the PTs Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In doing so, we have in place rigorous systems to ensure all activities in the PTs are comprehensively monitored and pro-actively managed with a zero tolerance approach to fraud, mismanagement or links to terrorists and their activities.
Australia's objectives for its PTs aid program are described in its Aid Investment Plan (2015-19), which is available on the DFAT website. The objectives are (i) to support improved public financial management and a more competitive agricultural economy; and (ii) to support Palestinian refugees in the PTs and across the region to access quality basic services. Australia implements these objectives through a number of investments.
In 2018-19, Australia provided $15 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in addition to a $5 million payment advanced in 2017-18. Australia's funding provides health, education and protection services to Palestinian refugees in the PTs, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Australia continued to implement the third phase of the Australian Middle East NGO Cooperation Agreement (AMENCA 3), providing just over $4.5 million in 2018-19. This figure is lower than the $8.17 million initially budgeted for this year. These shortfalls were due to DFAT's suspension of assistance to World Vision and APHEDA (APHEDA's suspension has since been lifted). AMENCA 3 is working with Australian and Palestinian non-government organisations and others to increase productivity, and facilitate links and private sector investment in the agriculture sector, with a focus on women and youth empowerment.
In June 2019, Australia provided $10 million to the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support the development of a desalinisation plant in the Gaza Strip; and $3.8 million in support of international humanitarian organisation programs. A further $2 million was also allocated to the UN Office for Project Services' Access Coordination Unit and Project Management Unit to facilitate access for humanitarian actors across the PTs and material into Gaza
Twelve Australia Award scholarships were awarded (with 11 taken up) in 2018-19 to support future Palestinian leaders in the fields of education, governance, and environment and natural resource management.
In 2018-19, the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) continued to support three Australian NGOs to deliver health, vocational training and women's empowerment projects in both Gaza and the West Bank. In Gaza one of the programs provided health services for 25,900 women, children and youth through primary care and market linked vocational training services. In the West Bank, another program has been supporting enhancing women's status in both households and communities through development of women-led small and medium sized enterprises. The Direct Aid Program (DAP) funded Palestinian organisations to support vulnerable communities and groups, including children, youth and women. Projects were conducted across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and reached a large number of communities. Projects included surgical equipment to improve eye care services, mental health and psychological support for at-risk Bedouin children, training in coding for marginalised youth, and a safe playground for children with disabilities.