Ireland's programme of assistance to the Palestinian people supports the search for a lasting and just political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our focus is on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities across the occupied Palestinian territory and Palestine refugees in neighbouring countries.
Our programme reflects Ireland's longstanding commitment to the development of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, living in peace alongside the State of Israel. For over two decades, our programmes have helped to meet the needs of the most vulnerable Palestinian people while supporting the Palestinian Authority to build the institutions of a Palestinian state. Our engagement is managed by our Representative Office in Ramallah.
Occupation and the impact of the ongoing conflict are amongst the primary obstacles to development in the occupied Palestinian territory. Restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the lack of access to land and water resources, the separation of the West Bank and Gaza, the Gaza blockade and the fragmentation of the West Bank continue to disrupt progress.
It is the most vulnerable, including the refugee population, who are worst affected. With just under 70% of the population aged under 30 according to the latest census, Palestinian youth and children are particularly affected by the lack of any perspective of an end to the conflict and the shortage of opportunities.
We recognise that long-term, sustainable development in Palestine is closely linked to a successful outcome to the Middle East Peace Process which remains a key foreign policy priority for the Irish Government. In 2018, Ireland provided more than €13 million in support to the Palestinian people, to help them deliver on their development priorities, to support the promotion of human rights and to meet immediate humanitarian needs.
Support for the Palestinian Authority
The capacity of the Palestinian Authority to deliver essential public services is vital for the immediate welfare of the Palestinian people and critical to the development of a Palestinian state. In addition to our support for the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Ireland provides funding to the Palestinian Authority, through a fund managed by the European Commission, to deliver these services. Our support has been focused on services in the area of social protection, supporting vulnerable Palestinian families living in extreme poverty through direct social cash transfers.
Education is a key focus
Education is the focus of Ireland's support to the Palestinian Authority. In 2018, we provided €2.5 million in funding to the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Ireland is one of four European partners working directly with the Ministry to assist in the provision of better quality education services to Palestinian children.
In January 2018, during a visit to Palestine, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD, announced the launch of a new scholarship programme for Palestinian students, to build on the Fellowship Training Programme (FTP) which is focused on developing the capacity of partner organisations in Palestine. For the 2019/20 academic year, we will be introducing the Ireland-Palestine Scholarship Programme (IPSP) aimed at eligible Palestinians wishing to pursue master's level courses in Ireland. Further information will be available on our website later this year.
Support for Palestine refugees
The largest single component of the Irish Aid programme in Palestine is our support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Since its establishment in 1948, UNRWA has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees.
Today, UNRWA providesbasic services such as food aid, education and health to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.
We have provided over €68 million to UNRWA since 2005.
Protection of human rights
We are conscious that in the absence of any real progress in the Middle East Peace Process, continuing Israeli policies and practices on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territory are making peace increasingly difficult to achieve.
For many years, Ireland has therefore placed a focus on violations of human rights of Palestinians living in the oPt. These include the seizure of land for Israeli settlements, evictions and demolitions and confiscations of Palestinian property, such as homes and farm buildings, wells and water tanks, as well as olive trees and crops. We have also focused on issues around movement and access, prisoners' rights and the discriminatory treatment of Palestinians, for example in the application of planning laws.
We support a number of key Palestinian and Israeli NGOs in their work on the monitoring, advocacy and legal defence of human rights.
We continue to address the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people.
For many years the situation in Gaza, which has a population of just over 1.9 million people, has been in steady decline. Three major conflicts in six years, in addition to eleven years of economic blockade, have had a devastating impact on socio-economic conditions in Gaza, driving many people deeper into poverty and unemployment.
The effects of the events since the Gaza border protests began on 30 March 2018 have further compounded and accelerated the deterioration of living conditions and the erosion of the social fabric in the Gaza Strip.
Ireland has provided support for many years aimed at addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza. This support has been channelled primarily through UNRWA (for Palestine refugees) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
A total of €500,000 was provided to OCHA in 2017 for their work in the oPt; €300,000 of which was for the OCHA-managed Humanitarian Fund which supports the humanitarian response in the West Bank and Gaza.
The humanitarian situation in the West Bank remains difficult. Demolitions of homes and restrictions on freedom of movement and on access to essential services have all impacted negatively on the resilience of vulnerable Palestinian communities and their ability to remain in their current location. Underlining our commitment to reducing the vulnerability of Palestinian communities living in Area C of the West Bank, Ireland joined the West Bank Protection Consortium of INGOs and European donors in 2017. The Consortium has played a leading role in supporting threatened communities and co-ordinating the provision of essential services, including material assistance and legal aid.
Download the Irish Aid Annual Report 2017
Read more about our engagement with the occupied Palestinian territory in the Irish Aid Annual Report 2017.
You can also keep up to date with news from our Representative Office in Ramallah by following them on twitter.