Ramallah – Palestine
February 25, 2015
The Palestinian Umbrella NGO Network, which consists of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Palestinian National Institute for NGOs (PNIN) and the Palestinian General Union of Charitable Societies, has launched a project termed the “Enhancement of the Role of Civil Society Organizations in Development”. Funded by the European Union, this project seeks to strengthen the role of Palestinian NGO networks and unions in the Palestinian Territories by enhancing coordination, cooperation and integration between them. The project aims to find new means and resources to influence government policies and international donors in a manner that promotes and enhances the role of Palestinian civil society organizations and meets the needs of marginalized sectors and national development priorities.
The project was launched in a ceremony held in Ramallah and opened by Munjed Abu Jeish, head of the Board of Directors of the NGO Network. He stated that the main obstacle facing development in the Palestinian Territories is the Israeli occupation, which uses every means to undermine Palestinian society by sabotaging development and infrastructure projects, either directly or by impeding access to them. The Gaza Strip is under a continuous and oppressive Israeli siege, while growth in the Palestinian economy is obstructed and it is kept subordinate to the Israeli economy. This process is exacerbated by the Israeli act of piracy in detaining Palestinian tax revenues, thus undermining the PA and bringing it close to collapse.
Abu Jeish stressed that this is the first project of its kind to cover the major umbrella networks and constitutes an extension of a partnership based on mutual respect and joint cooperation between them. A code of conduct and understanding has been established over many years of work in agriculture, health, education, democracy, human rights and the protection of public freedoms. The principles of integrity, transparency and re-prioritization have been enhanced in accordance with the needs of Palestinian society and the need to strengthen and empower civil society.
Mr. John Gatt-Rutter, the EU representative in the Palestinian Territories, affirmed EU commitment to support the Palestinian people, including civil society NGOs and umbrella networks, and pledged to develop the work of institutions and improve coordination between them. He highlighted the role of civil society organizations as real partners in dialogue and development, and as forces of change in the democratic process. External cooperation and external relations are at the core of EU policies to achieve sustainable and comprehensive development and the EU believes that, with its support, Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian government can achieve the desired development. He reiterated the importance of an independent civil society that can work freely without any restrictions.
Nasfat al-Khafash, the coordinator of the NGOs Coordinating Council, stated that the long and rich experience of the NGO sector has supported the resilience of Palestinians on a daily basis and in the context of resisting the occupation through civil resistance. The work of civil society with other partners to protect individual and collective public freedoms in an integrated developmental vision also contributes to the democratic process.
Al-Khafash stressed the importance of coordination in creating a clear vision of democratic principles to strengthen the current process of liberation and transformation. He added that this process also needs to include principles of accountability in the form of participatory work, pluralism, and the freedom and dignity of citizens in accordance with the law. The NGO sector represents the majority of NGO networks and reflects the need for networks to have one voice. The EU has offered its support for this approach, leading to the signing of the project to strengthen the role of civil society organizations in development. This will influence public policies and enhance partnership with official parties and the private sector to serve Palestinian society.
Dua’a Qurie’, Executive Director of the NGO Network, presented an overview of the project, its various activities and the anticipated outcomes. She confirmed that the project seeks to develop the work of the NGO networks by enhancing internal structures and relations between the components of the networks (institutions and members). Qurie’ pointed out that eleven networks and three main networks will benefit from the project, which will last eighteen months. The EU contribution to the project is around 420,000 euros, equivalent to 95% of the total costs of the project. This includes several activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including workshops; the establishment of information systems for the networks and members; and bringing researchers and experts to implement studies and research that strengthen civil society, including work in health, agriculture, youth and education.
The ceremony to launch the project was facilitated by Issam Arouri, member of the NGOs Coordinating Council, and was attended by civil society activists, directors of institutions, networks and the Anti-corruption Commission, and representatives of the diplomatic corps and the EU office in the Palestinian Territories.