Paris, 17 October 2014
Item 29 of the provisional agenda
REPORT BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL ON THE RECONSTRUCTION AND
DEVELOPMENT OF GAZA: IMPLEMENTATION OF 194 EX/DECISION 28
Action expected of the Executive Board: Decision in paragraph 17.
1. This document presents an update on UNESCO's contribution to the United Nations systemwide response to the Gaza Crisis during the period from mid-August to early October 2014. Following the agreement between the parties to a ceasefire on 26 August, UNESCO engaged in preliminary damage assessments within its fields of competence in order to support planning by the Palestinian authorities for recovery and longer-term reconstruction. The international community is mobilized to contribute to such efforts — major donors and partners will gather at the International Conference in Support of the Reconstruction of Gaza, which will be held in Cairo on 12 October 2014.
2. The end of the 50-day conflict resulted in half a million people to be internally displaced. Schools, educational institutions and cultural heritage have suffered significant damage, as reported below.
3. Education is one priority of the "National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza", the pledging document which will be presented by the Palestinian authorities at the Cairo Donor Conference on 12 October. The Plan lists UNESCO as a key partner in the delivery of assistance, both to address immediate needs in the field of education, as well as the longer-term impact of the crisis on the learning quality and well-being of children and youth.
4. On 13, 18 and 19 August, UNESCO participated in the Humanitarian Multi-Cluster/Agency Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) coordinated by OCHA. The assessment was carried out in Gaza with the aim of gathering baseline information on the needs arising from the conflict, and informing the humanitarian response. UNESCO actively supported the MIRA data collection on the ground, particularly in the area of education
5. According to the MIRA findings, 26 schools have been completely destroyed and 122 others have been damaged during the conflict, 75 of which are UNRWA schools. It is worth noting that the education system in Gaza was already suffering from a shortage of at least 200 schools prior to the most recent conflict, with classes running in double shifts, impacting on the quality of education.
6. After a three week delay, the school year started on 14 September, and most children could go back to school, although in a very challenging context given the lack of schools and proper learning spaces. UNESCO staff monitored the start of the school year on the ground in a selected number of the 26 pilot schools of the "Education for All package" supported under UNESCO's programme to promote access to quality and inclusive education in Palestinian schools, funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development.
7. Based on MIRA findings, a revised 2014 Gaza Crisis Appeal was launched in Ramallah on 9 September. UNESCO's contribution to this appeal includes the project mentioned in paragraph 6 of document 195 EX/29, aiming to improve the safety of the education environment and mitigate the distress affecting teachers and learners by providing psychosocial support, recreational activities and innovative classroom practices. The project in question, entitled "Protect education from attack, promote schools as safe zones and provide inclusive quality education in affected secondary schools in Gaza" ($750,000), focuses its interventions on the most vulnerable secondary public schools, located in the Access Restricted Area (Buffer Zone) of the Gaza Strip.
8. Another UNESCO project included in the revised 2014 Gaza Crisis Appeal focuses on "Protecting higher education institutions as safe zones and mitigating the impact of the crisis on university students and teachers to ensure the right to quality higher education in Gaza" ($1,000,000). Building on extensive experience in the protection of education in Gaza, this programme supports higher-education institutions, affected by the recent crisis. Aiming to support the role of these institutions as protective learning spaces for students and teachers alike, the programme will benefit ten higher-education institutions and will focus on the provision of basic safety equipment and materials as well as on awareness raising sessions on emergency preparedness for university teachers and students; on psychosocial support for students, notably through the establishment of counselling services in each institution; and on guidance sessions to university teachers to apply the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) minimum standards and inclusive education approach in daily class practices at higher education institutions.
9. Regarding the higher-education sector, initial reports received by UNESCO indicate that 12 higher-education institutions have had their infrastructure damaged. An estimated number of 90,000 students will see their right to higher education during the academic year 2014-2015 directly affected by the recent conflict. In the framework of the Humanitarian Education Cluster and in close coordination with the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education, UNESCO is coordinating a more comprehensive quantitative and qualitative assessment of the impact of the conflict on 26 higher-education institutions, and on students and teachers in Gaza. The overall objective of this assessment is to support the Ministry and higher-education institutions in the identification of critical needs and in the development of an overall response plan for the higher education sector in Gaza. An area of focus of the assessment is closely related to UNESCO's support to inclusive education systems and will be specifically dedicated to the situation of students, who are suffering from impairment or disability as a result of the conflict.
10. As concerns the state of conservation of cultural heritage, UNESCO, in close liaison with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, carried out an initial preliminary field assessment of cultural heritage sites that had been reportedly damaged. The assessment took place from 12 to 14 August and from 9 to 11 September, and covered 22 sites across the Gaza Strip.
11. The preliminary field assessment looked at the three sites included in the Palestinian Tentative List of World Heritage, which are located in Gaza. No apparent damage has occurred to the archaeological site of Tell Umm Amer (Saint Hilarion Monastery) in Nuseirat. UNESCO could not gain full access to the Anthedon Harbour site, which seems to have slight damage on its part facing the sea. The natural site of Wadi Gaza Coastal Wetlands partly used as both agricultural and housing development area and also as a sewage draining area, has sustained damages to houses and other built structures. At the current stage, it was not possible to fully assess damages to the site's biological diversity.
12. Among the damaged cultural heritage, the historic mosque of Al-Mahkamah has been destroyed, with the exception of its minaret, which shows extensive structural cracks. The site is located in the area of Ashuja'ia, and its original construction dates back to the Mamluk period (1455 AD). The Al-Muntar Shrine and mosque, dating back to the Mamluk era, and located in the east of Ashuja'ia neighbourhood, have also been destroyed.
13. Damages have also occurred to the Mamluk period Azzofer Domry and Omani mosques. New extensions to these mosques have been destroyed, while there was minor damage to roofs, cross vaults and walls of the historic fabric of the buildings. Moderate damage to the Greek Orthodox historic cemetery located beside the Church of Saint Porphyrous in Gaza City has also been reported, with some indirect damages to the church itself (originally built in 401 AD).
14. Minor damages and fall of shrapnel have occurred to other heritage sites, such as: Saqqa Mansion, (dating from the 17th century and located in the Ashuja'ia area); Shrine and Mosaic floor of Abassan (dating from around 600 AD and located in Khan Younis); Al Basha Palace in Gaza City (originally built in the 15th century, from the beginning of the Ottoman era), Al-Khader Shrine in Deir Al-Balah city (from the Mamluk era) and Deir Al-Balah cultural museum.
15. Following the initial findings mentioned above, UNESCO will undertake a full in-depth damage and needs assessment. In close liaison with the Ministries of Tourism and Antiquities and of Culture, the Organization will support the preparation of a long-term development action plan to reconstruct the damaged cultural heritage, taking into account its potential to support local economic development. The role of cultural heritage in this regard has been stressed in the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza, which will be presented at the International Conference in Cairo.
16. As part of the overall response of the United Nations to recovery and reconstruction in Gaza,
UNESCO's proposed interventions in its fields of competence, and more specifically in education, cultural heritage protection and conservation, as well as women's empowerment, are included in the "UN Support Plan for the Transformation of the Gaza Strip". This Support Plan presents a coordinated and comprehensive response by the United Nations to the Government's National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza addressing in particular governance, recovery, reconstruction and structural development.
17. In light of the above, the Executive Board may wish to consider the following decision:
The Executive Board,
1. Having considered document 195 EX/29 and its Addendum,
2. Acknowledges UNESCO's participation in the Multi-Cluster/Agency Initial Rapid Assessment and the revised 2014 Gaza Crisis Appeal, as well as its contribution to the UN Support Plan for the Transformation of Gaza; and, in this context;
3. Calls upon Member States, international organizations and relevant international and national institutions as well as the private sector to provide extrabudgetary funding to assist UNESCO in its support the recovery and reconstruction in Gaza;
4. Decides to include this item in the agenda of its 196th session, and invites the Director-General to submit to it a follow-up report thereon.