OQR Strategy for Gaza
Why a strategy for Gaza is important
The restrictions on Gaza continue to impede reconstruction and economic recovery. They stymie legitimate non-political private sector activity and impact adversely on the development of key infrastructure, including the provision of water and energy, and, consequently, on the living conditions of the Gazan population. Approximately one-third of all Gazans currently live below the poverty line, there is a 30 percent shortage in electricity supply, and only 5 percent of the water supplied in Gaza meets World Health Organization standards (CMWU). In contrast to the West Bank’s real GDP per capita growth, which has increased steadily since 2007 and is projected to be about 60 percent above its 1994 level by 2013, Gaza’s real GDP per capita has steadily declined since the blockade in 2006, with its recovery starting in 2009 only (IMF, 2010).
The Quartet calls for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza so that crucial reconstruction work can take place and legitimate business can prosper. The OQR works to highlight the urgency of promoting the overall humanitarian relief effort in Gaza and of driving the ‘ground up’ development process in support of political negotiations on a permanent status agreement for the Palestinian state.
What the OQR aims to achieve
The OQR’s working-level strategic goals for Gaza are to:
- enable freedom of movement and access for imports, exports (to both local and international markets) and individuals, including businesspeople who can contribute to economic recovery and the strengthening of Gaza’s civil society;
- facilitate the implementation of large humanitarian projects;
- promote the development of the legitimate non-political private sector, including enabling the legitimate import of construction material presently on the ‘controlled list’;
- engage with leading business representatives and donors to step up investment;
- expedite the rehabilitation and construction of key water, sanitation and energy infrastructure; and
- facilitate the entry into Gaza of sufficient cash to ensure public confidence in the formal Gazan banking system.
How the OQR supports reconstruction and development in Gaza
The Quartet Representative and OQR Head of Mission work closely with the President and Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and other senior Palestinian officials and with the Israeli Prime Minister, the Israeli Minister for Regional Cooperation, the Israeli Defence Minister and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) to advance and coordinate OQR’s agenda for Gaza. The Quartet Representative and OQR Head of Mission also conduct regular meetings via video-conference with leading representatives of the Gazan business, infrastructure and civil society sectors.
The OQR team of advisers works to advance and support these consultations. The team meets regularly with representatives from a number of different sectors, including the banking, utilities, manufacturing, retail, trade and humanitarian sectors. OQR advisers conduct regular field visits to Gaza to monitor the implementation of Israel policies aimed at easing restrictions and improving capacity at crossings between Gaza and Israel and the implementation of reconstruction and humanitarian projects. An OQR adviser who is resident in Gaza follows up on developments and makes recommendations for OQR interventions.
Following extensive dialogue with the Quartet Representative and the OQR team, on 20 June 2011 the Israeli Government changed its policy governing the entry of goods into Gaza. The Israeli Government’s previous policy limited goods allowed to enter Gaza to around 100 specific items – itemised on a ‘positive’ list. The new policy has resulted in the ‘positive list’ being replaced by a ‘negative list’ of items whose entry is ‘controlled’ for security reasons. All items not on the list of controlled items are permitted to enter Gaza without special facilitation. This decision has significantly increased the volume of goods and the range of goods and materials (from approximately 100 to over 2,000 items) eligible for import by both Gazan traders and international donors implementing large scale projects. Nevertheless, special facilitation is still required for many projects, and this is not always as seamless as it could be.
As a follow up to the June decision, the OQR has advocated for expanding the range of export products to include agricultural produces (mainly vegetables), furniture, garments, and light industrial products to the West Bank, Israel and Gaza. As an important step in the righ direction, the Israeli cabinet decided on 8 December to expand the range of exports out of Gaza, which is deemed a key decision to revitalize the Gaza economy, support job creation and can be done in accordance with Israel's security needs. The implementation of this decision will help to strengthen the legitimate private sector and alleviate some of the hardship faced by local businessmen.
The OQR has also successfully advocated for the: (i) entry into Gaza of (‘controlled’ materials required for the repair and maintenance of the energy, and telecommunication networks, water and sanitation systems in the Gaza Strip including the North Gaza Sewage Project which diverted sewage away from the dangerous Beit Lahiya sewage lake; (ii) entry of cash shipments to shore up public confidence in the formal Palestinian banking system; (iii) export of strawberries and carnations to markets in Europe, together with its partners; and (iv) greater movement of business people into Gaza.