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UNDP and Its Partners Drive Inclusive Growth for Palestinians

By Yvonne Helle

In early 2002, during a crucial time in Palestinian history, as the second intifada spread across the Palestinian territory, the Israeli authorities persisted in implementing harsh measures on the ground that reshaped the Palestinian discourse into what we observe today. The Israeli authorities introduced an additional number of checkpoints, allowed for the expansion of settlements, began constructing the separation wall, and escalated military operations against most Palestinian cities, refugee camps, and rural communities.

This period is considered one of the most diffucult times in Palestinian history. The socioeconomic situation was dreadful. Employment opportunities were unavailable in the Palestinian economy, and thousands of Palestinan workers were laid off in Israel. A complicated work permit system was introduced, exacerbating unemployment. In addition, essential infrastructures, including social, public, and economic facilities, were damaged.

To help alleviate these difficult circumstances, the UNDP/PAPP, in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority and the international community, launched several initiatives to address the emerging challenges. One of those initiatives was the Employment Generation Programme (EGP), a partnership between the Government of Germany (through its KfW Development Bank) and UNDP/PAPP, aiming to alleviate poverty by creating employment for the most marginalized people.

I vividly remember the development of the project and the signing of the first agreement. At that time, I was working at the UNDP headquarters in New York and tasked with developing the agreement. I never imagined that the programme would continue for 20 years, nor could I have dreamt of the enormous impact the programme would have. As the EGP is coming to a conclusion, I am very proud of UNDP’s partnership with the Government of Germany and of the EGP’s accomplishments. They have become a robust model for community-based development and a regional flagship programme.

Training at Atfaluna Society, Gaza. ©UNDP/PAPP – Shareef Sarhan.

As the EGP was designed as a multidimensional framework, it provided the flexibility and reach to address the highest priorities of Palestinian communities throughout the oPt. Community infrastructure improvement was adopted as the program’s core approach, and its basic principle was to provide short and long-term opportunities for Palestinian workers through the implementation of community infrastructure.

The EGP received more than 102 million Euro from the German Government (through KfW Development Bank). Through more than 600 infrastructure projects – such as the construction of 262 classrooms, 11 vocational training centers, 363 community service buildings, the installation of water lines, and the rehabilitation of roads and agricultural lands – the EGP has contributed significantly to meeting the pressing development needs of disadvantaged Palestinians in the oPt. In addition, the EGP made a significant contribution to the enhancing of methodologies for the creation of job opportunities by focusing on labor content; it shifted from an immediate-response initiative to a development-oriented one and laid the groundwork for launching numerous interventions that have been scaled and expanded since.

To date, the program’s eleven phases have resulted in over 1.37 million workdays and 2,200 permanent jobs. The program has also contributed to the improving of local services in areas such as healthcare, education, and community development and to the expansion of physical infrastructure and basic services.

“ Irada” For Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. ©UNDP/PAPP – Shareef Sarhan.

Building on the success and lessons learned of the EGP, the UNDP/PAPP is proud to extend its partnership with the Government of Germany and KfW Development Bank to launch a new initiative, the Investment Programme for Resilience (IPR), which aims to increase the resilience of marginalized communities in the oPt. The IPR focuses on strengthening community resilience in marginalized areas by adopting a methodology that engages the local community, ensures that the implemented interventions are based on community needs, and, as a result, strengthens local ownership. The IPR combines the rehabilitation of social and community infrastructure with strengthening of local entities’ management capacities and their community-led initiatives for social cohesion.

Hebron. ©UNDP/PAPP – Zakaria Abu Al Halaweh.

In March 2023, the German Federal Government, the UNDP/PAPP, the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian civil society sector will commemorate 20 years of unwavering collaboration and strategic partnership through “Partners4Good.” This event, hosted by H.E. Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh, Prime Minister of the State of Palestine, celebrates the partnership, acknowledges the Palestinian governmental institutions’ collaboration with the UNDP/PAPP, and honors the Palestinian workers who have taken on community development tasks. “Partners4Good” will highlight the partnership’s impact on Palestinian lives over the last two decades, as it engaged with the goal of eradicating poverty and transforming lives through socioeconomic development.

  • Yvonne Helle was appointed as the UNDP’s Special Representative of the Administrator in September 2019. Prior to that, she temporarily managed the Sub-Regional Facility for the Syrian Crisis in Amman, was Senior Country Director in Haiti, Country Director in Sudan, Head of Partnership in New York, Deputy Resident Representative in Morocco, and Assistant Resident Representative for Governance in Laos. Equipped with an MSc from the Agricultural University of Wageningen, the Netherlands, Yvonne started her UN career in 1992 as a Dutch Junior Professional Officer. Yvonne is married and has two children.

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