By Jochen Flasbarth
Together with their Palestinian partners, Germany and the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) are celebrating twenty years of successful collaboration in support of the Palestinian people. As one of the most prominent programs of German development cooperation in the occupied Palestinian territories – the Employment Generation Programme (EGP) – is coming to an end, we are proud of its results that have improved lives in local communities.
The political situation in the Palestinian territories, i.e., the occupation of the West Bank and the closure of the Gaza Strip, is a major challenge for economic development and also negatively impacts the labor market: in 2021, the official unemployment rate in the West Bank was 16 percent and 47 percent in the Gaza Strip. Women are especially affected by unemployment – nearly twice as much as men. Hence, creating job opportunities, in particular for young people and women, is at the core of German-Palestinian development cooperation. The particular focus on the female workforce and on equal access to the labor market for women is one of the hallmarks of our development cooperation worldwide and a concrete outcome of the feminist development policy promoted by Development Minister Svenja Schulze.
As one element in helping to fight high unemployment, the EGP aims to provide short- and longer-term job opportunities while at the same time improving and building social infrastructure. Since the program’s inception in 2002, Germany has funded, through the KfW Development Bank, 766 individual projects, implemented by the UNDP in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, for a total amount of over 100 million euros. This has generated over 1.37 million workdays and created 2,200 permanent jobs, of which 60 percent are held by women. Projects have included the construction and rehabilitation of hospitals, vocational training centers, cultural institutions, organizations that support women and people with special needs; youth clubs and sports facilities; and road, water, and sewage networks. A distinctive measure has been the support given to the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) as it aims to revitalize the old city of Hebron. This cooperation has resulted in the renovation of the interiors of 183 shops in the old city and in the restoration of 96 homes, the Al-Yakaza School, a clinic that serves the local residents, and a Turkish bath in Khan Shaheen. These interventions have helped preserve cultural heritage and create tourist attractions in the old city.
The EGP is now coming to an end – but that does not mean that Germany’s partnership with the UNDP, as it engages to strengthen employment and improve social infrastructure, will end as well. Building on the EGP’s success, Germany is continuing its efforts to increase the resilience of the most marginalized Palestinian communities through the new Investment Programme for Resilience (IPR). This program – also implemented by the UNDP – supports Palestinians through investment in community infrastructure and by enhancing access to sustainable and quality services; it also focuses on capacity building and community engagement activities. Thus, and in view of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, the IPR reduces humanitarian needs, increases the resilience of local communities, and contributes to social cohesion. Moreover, Germany provided emergency support to combat the COVID-19 pandemic through the IPR: 226 sets of equipment and medical tools were provided to health facilities across the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, including real-time PCR machines, digital radiography machines, and defibrillator monitors. Additionally, 1,388 health workers (929 in the West Bank and 459 in the Gaza Strip) were deployed across 138 health facilities to assist in coping with the difficult health situation.
We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the UNDP and are optimistic that our joint efforts will yield further positive results for the Palestinian people – in particular in terms of generating employment and increasing resilience.
Priority areas and results of Palestinian-German development cooperation
Since the early 1980s, Germany has been one of most significant donors to the Palestinian territories through development cooperation in a difficult, frequently changing environment. To date, it has committed more than 1.4 billion euros for bilateral development cooperation with the Palestinian territories in addition to other forms of support, such as humanitarian assistance. Germany is guided by the vision of a just and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a two-state solution, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace, security, and prosperity. Through its development cooperation, Germany aims to improve the living conditions for all Palestinians and create solid institutions for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
German development cooperation focuses on the following three priority areas: fostering sustainable economic development and the promotion of training and employment; supporting the development of public institutions, particularly at the municipal level, and a vibrant Palestinian civil society; and sustainably strengthening water and wastewater services.
Our cooperation has yielded impressive results over the last couple of years. For example, with German support, schools have been built or rehabilitated, providing education to more than 800,000 girls and boys; about 3.5 million citizens have received improved delivery of basic services in their communities; and about 1.8 million citizens have gained access to improved water and wastewater services.
German development cooperation also supports a range of different projects implemented by non-governmental organizations, faith-based agencies, and German municipalities and political foundations. In addition to its partnership with the UNDP, Germany is also one of the largest donors to other UN agencies, such as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP).