PNGO Network Position regarding the Gaza Strip Reconstruction Conference
The Governments of Norway and Egypt are preparing to co-host an international conference in Cairo during early October to plan for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip following the Israeli assault during July-August 2014. As the representative body for more than 145 Palestinian NGOs working to support the Palestinian people in their steadfast resistance to occupation and in asserting their dignity and human rights, PNGO would like to make the following statement concerning this conference and any external discussions regarding reconstruction in the Gaza Strip. This statement derives from our commitment to the Palestinian people and our responsibility as a voice for Palestinian civil society, and for the victims of continued Israeli aggression and for those whose human and political rights are denied. With this in mind, we stress the following:
- Israel must be held accountable not only for the recent assault on the Gaza Strip but for its continued bombardment and suffocation of the Gaza Strip and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. We call on the international community to make their commitment to human rights tangible by holding Israel to account in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other relevant domains. This effort must also include the demand and assurance that Israel will pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted upon the people and infrastructure of the Gaza Strip.
- Reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts must go hand-in-hand with support for the Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination, liberation and independence. Freedom from occupation will solve many of the crises facing Palestinians today. Rather than dealing with reconstruction and independence as separate concepts, the international community must recognize that the right of the Palestinian people to a long-overdue liberation from Israeli occupation in both Gaza and the West Bank must underpin and inform the sustainable reconstruction of the Strip. The international community should support Palestinians in asserting their right to self-determination, not assist with temporary recovery while Palestinians wait for the next scheduled Israeli attack.
- Donor countries involved in reconstruction in Gaza need to ensure that their generous donations and investments are not destroyed again. Donors must keep accurate records of development spending and hold Israel accountable and demand reparations for the destruction of any of their projects in Gaza.
- We are entitled to rebuild our country. There should be no constraints on the rights of the Palestinian people to access the commodities urgently needed for reconstruction that are available everywhere else on the planet. Sustainable reconstruction and forward-thinking development can only take place if Israel’s siege on Gaza, which systematically suffocates the industrial, commercial, agricultural, health and education sectors, is lifted. Lifting the siege must include the opening of Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt to allow the unhindered movement of people, goods for reconstruction and development, and humanitarian aid.
- The international community must not allow Israel to maintain control over – and therefore, to profit from – the import and export of commodities to Gaza during the reconstruction and rehabilitation process. The international community has thus far permitted Israel to avoid proper condemnation for its war crimes, widespread destruction and civilian massacres; Israel should not be rewarded a second time through the purchase of Israeli goods by aid and reconstruction partners for the rehabilitation. We demand that in all possible cases the Palestinian leadership and international partners lead the way in finding alternatives to Israeli sources of construction materials, and in rejecting arrangements where Israel benefits from the reconstruction process. To reward Israel by buying its commodities for the reconstruction would be to betray our martyrs, our wounded people and our national determination cause. Further, we insist that national and international reconstruction partners make every effort to buy Palestinian products for reconstruction, and to prioritize the capable Palestinian private sector over other providers during the reconstruction efforts. This will support the national economy by boosting employment and developing the industrial and commercial sectors, thereby helping to create more viable economic foundations for an independent Palestinian state.
- Reconstruction must be undertaken across all sectors – health, infrastructure, education, industry, commerce, environment and agriculture – in a balanced manner to ensure a comprehensive response to the widespread vulnerability that repeated Israeli assaults have caused in the Gaza Strip.
- To ensure transparency and accountability, all segments of society should be given opportunities to participate in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. The reconstruction process should encourage participation from all relevant stakeholders, including the people of Gaza, especially the victims of this latest Israeli assault, the Palestinian Legislative Council, donor countries involved in reconstruction, the Palestinian Government, Palestinian NGOs and other civil society organizations, popular committees, federations and unions, UN agencies and the private sector. All stakeholders must work together to develop a framework that allows a wide base for participation in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation aspects of the reconstruction.
- We recommend the creation of a technical committee, including a range of experts specializing in relevant fields, to monitor and give feedback on damage assessments and the priorities for reconstruction in Gaza. This will ensure that there is a high level of professionalism and transparency surrounding reconstruction, and that recommendations for reconstruction are sound and made on the basis of accurate and comprehensive data.
By ensuring that the above points are addressed in all reconstruction efforts, we can work towards a more just end to the recurring Israeli assaults inflicted upon the Gaza Strip and an end to the prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territories in the near future.