Role of the Palestinian Diaspora in
The Rehabilitation and Development Process
In the Occupied Palestinian Territory
I. Background and justification
The ministerial sessions of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) adopted resolutions 237 (d-XXI) and 252 (d-XXII) in 2001 and 2003 respectively, which called on ESCWA to contribute to the Rehabilitation of the Economic Sectors in Palestine and reaffirmed the importance of pursuing efforts towards the socio-economic rehabilitation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Since the adoption of these resolutions, the situation has further deteriorated with the destruction of Palestinian institutions, infrastructure and homes reaching unprecedented proportions. The economy has been shattered and the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people has deepened, thereby necessitating urgent action. In response to this situation and given that ESCWA is the only United Nations entity in which Palestine enjoys full membership, the secretariat is organizing the Arab-International Forum on Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT): Towards an Independent State.
On 9 September 2003, the League of Arab States (LAS) at the ministerial level meeting issued a resolution, later adopted by the Sixteenth Arab Summit Conference (Tunis, 21-23 May 2004), in which it commended the initiative of ESCWA, LAS and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in organizing the Forum, and called on all Arab funds and Arab economic and financial organizations to support the Forum and its preparatory process. On 12 July 2003, the Palestinian Council of Ministers issued a decision reiterating the importance of the Forum and its preparatory process, calling on all concerned parties to support it as a fundamental step towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.
The PA, Palestinian civil society and private sector representatives regarded the Forum and its preparatory process as an opportunity to reaffirm the need for the continuation and enhancement of efforts for developing economic and social institutions, despite continuous political and military turmoil. They considered the Forum as an opportunity to present their views, needs and aspirations to the Arab and international communities, as well as to sensitize the Arab community on various development issues in the OPT. They also viewed the Forum as a mechanism to effectively and efficiently mobilize, coordinate and better channel regional and international efforts.
The formulation of more effective mechanisms to channel Arab and international support could be enhanced through the organization of a number of preparatory activities, prior to the Forum. In this context, a Palestinian Consultation Meeting was jointly organized by the PA, civil society and private sector representatives in Ramallah from 21-22 April 2004, and aimed at reaching a suitable Palestinian consensus on a coordinated vision for rehabilitation and development. A workshop on Palestinian-Arab Civil Society Partnership was held in Beirut (9-10 June 2004), with the aim of devising mechanisms of cooperation between Palestinian and Arab civil society entities. Another workshop that would bring together Palestinian and Arab private sector representatives will be held in Amman, from 27-28 July. It aims to formulate mechanisms to enhance Arab private sector support to sustainable development efforts in OPT and identify the role of Arab private sector institutions in facilitating access for Palestinian products to Arab markets.
The proposed experts meeting on the Role of the Palestinian Diaspora in the Rehabilitation and Development Process in the OPT will be held in Amman, from 29-30 July 2004. This is part of the preparatory process of the Forum, which aims to discuss mechanisms through which concerned Palestinian expatriates and institutions could enhance their support to the process of socio-economic rehabilitation and development in the OPT. The Palestine International Institute (PII) is shouldering the responsibility (with UNDP and ESCWA) in holding such a meeting.
Palestinian expatriates have been contributing to the socio-economic development in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), particularly since 1993, with the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority. This contribution, which was however limited, took mainly the form of participation of experts (particularly through the TOKTEN programme) in supporting the work of the various ministries of the Palestinian Authority, and contribution of businessmen from the diaspora to national investment in the OPT. With the exception of the TOKTEN programme, these efforts were unorganized, scattered and, in most cases, based on individual initiatives. More developed efforts will be undertaken in the future by PII, UNDP and ESCWA.
Though the Palestinian diaspora was often active in the political mobilization of the Arab and international community to the Palestinian cause, very little has been done to increase the awareness of this community on the socio-economic conditions of the Palestinian people under occupation, and to enhance its contribution to the socio-economic development process.
The Palestinian diaspora, which is dispersed all around the world, but rich in expertise and available entrepreneurs, can play a more effective role in the development process in the OPT, if adequate mechanisms are devised.
The Arab-International Forum on Rehabilitation and Development in the OPT, planned for 28-30 September, in Beirut, Lebanon, provides an excellent opportunity for the Palestinian diaspora to present its views on how it can enhance its contribution to the rehabilitation and development process in the OPT. The Forum would also contribute to strengthening the links between the diaspora and the Palestinian society and institutions in the OPT. This can be achieved through the participation of key Palestinian institutions of the Diaspora in the Forum, and the presentation of working papers that would enlighten on the significant role the Palestinian Diaspora can play and on mechanisms of support.
In order to better prepare for the Forum and to reach a vision on the role and potential of the diaspora, it is envisaged to discuss the draft working papers in a small expert meeting, that would bring together the experts who are currently preparing the required papers and prominent people from the diaspora.
The meeting aims to:
1. Deliberate on ways and means to enhance the contribution of the Palestinian diaspora to the socio-economic rehabilitation and development in the OPT.
2. Devise effective mechanisms of cooperation between Palestinian expatriates and Palestinian institutions in the OPT
3. Present the outcome of the expert meeting to the Arab-International Forum
The meeting would bring together the experts who prepared the papers, prominent Palestinian expatriates, in addition to Palestine International Institute, UNDP/PAPP, ESCWA, and the Palestinian Authority. Around 15 participants are expected to participate.
IV. Date and venue
The experts meeting will be held in Amman, Jordan, at Radisson hotel, from 29-30 July 2004.
V. Organizing entities
The Meeting is jointly organized by ESCWA, UNDP/PAPP and the Palestine International Institute (PII).
VI. Main topics
The main topics of the meeting are as follows:
1. The role of Palestinian expertise in the socio-economic rehabilitation and development in the OPT, and mechanisms of support
2. The role of Palestinian businessmen of the Diaspora in the OPT, and mechanisms of enhancing partnership with their counterparts in the Palestinian economy
3. The role of Palestinian institutions in the Diaspora in the mobilization of the international community towards the development process in the OPT
4. The role of the Palestinian institutions in the mobilization of the media towards socio-economic development in the OPT