Finland’s development cooperation in the occupied Palestinian territory
Finland launched its development cooperation in the occupied Palestinian territory in 1994. The cooperation has produced good results in the education sector in particular.
Finland supports Palestinian state-building both politically and through development cooperation. The overall objective of the development cooperation is to contribute to a peaceful, negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Finland has prepared its first Country Strategy for Development Cooperation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In the strategy, Finland concentrates on supporting the education sector and vulnerable areas (Gaza, Area C in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem). Finland's planned budget frame in 2016–2019 is approximately EUR 22 million.
Country Strategy for Development Cooperation, Occupied Palestinian Territory:
Trade between Finland and Palestine is modest but on the increase. The value of Finnish exports to the occupied Palestinian territory in 2018 amounted to EUR 635,000, while the value of imports to Finland totalled EUR 54,000.
Besides the bilateral development cooperation in the occupied Palestinian territory, Finland funds projects that are carried out by local and Finnish non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In all of Finland’s cooperation, attention is paid to the rights of vulnerable groups, especially women and children. NGOs’ projects complement the bilateral activities implemented under the Country Strategy.
Finland has supported the Palestinian education sector for 20 years. During this time, the Palestinian Ministry of Education & Higher Education has developed into a well-functioning and reliable government institution capable of providing the basic services. The cooperation has contributed to good results in the education sector: The level of education and the literacy rate are high (basic education is attended by about 95.5 % of children in the age category, adult literacy rate is approximately 96 %, and, what is particularly significant the female literacy rate has risen in the past decades). In addition, both genders take an equal part in education and the Ministry of Education & Higher Education is actively trying to provide better learning opportunities for children in a vulnerable position.
Finland considers that high-quality education supports democracy development, human rights and stability. Education is among the key services that a state is expected to provide. In the water sector, Finland has supported the reconstruction and development of Gaza’s water and sanitation infrastructure after the war in 2014. The World Bank administers a multi-donor trust fund which has, within a few years, helped to build a 35-kilometre water network, restore 41 kilometres of piping, and develop waste water management plants. This work benefits the entire 1.8-million population of Gaza.
Nine villages (35,000 people) got access to clean water in the West Bank through a water project, which was completed in 2015. As a result, water has become cheaper and the supply and quality of water have improved.
Finland has supported also the operation of hospitals in East Jerusalem. The East Jerusalem Hospital Network is the only provider of specialised medical care in the occupied Palestinian territory, which is why its maintenance is critical for the entire healthcare system. Additionally, supporting it is particularly important for East Jerusalem, where hospitals are among the few active Palestinian institutions.
The occupied Palestinian territory is unique context for development cooperation and the results are affected by external factors. The region is a fragile environment, where problems are caused by fragmentation of the population and area as well as fragmented political and administrative control and democracy deficit. The occupation of Israel hampers development the most.
Risks are mitigated by means of continuous monitoring of projects and programmes and by channelling support via different co-financing mechanisms whenever this is possible and appropriate. External audits and evaluations are also carried out regularly. In addition, open and regular political dialogue is maintained with both the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
- A Joint Financing Arrangement (JFA) in cooperation with Germany, Ireland and Norway. Finland’s planned contribution is EUR 12 million in 2016–2019.
- In 2017–2019, Finland co-chairs the Education Sector Working Group (ESWG) together with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) of the Palestinian Authority. Finland also co-chairs the preschool technical working group and participates in a working group that deals with children’s equal access to education.
- Through a Unicef’s project, Finland seeks to strengthen non-violent environment for raising and educating children from pre-school to upper secondary school level and to promote protection of children and education. Finland's contribution totals EUR 1 million in 2016–2018.
Vulnerable areas (Area C, Gaza, East Jerusalem):
- In 2019, Finland will support East Jerusalem hospitals by EUR 900,000 through the EU’s PEGASE instrument. In 2018, Finland’s funding was EUR 1.6 million and it was channelled to support social protection (the majority of the beneficiaries were in Gaza).
- The World Bank administered Multi Donor Trust Fun for infrastructure projects aims to improve the water and sanitation infrastructure in Gaza. Finland’s contribution was EUR 2.3 million in 2016.
- A trust fund administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aims to improve the living conditions and economic opportunities for people, including women, in Area C. Finland’s contribution is EUR 400,000 in 2018–2019.
- The main objectives of the Geneva Initiative are awareness-raising, change of attitudes and capacity-building as means to promote a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Finland’s planned contribution is EUR 152,100 in 2016–2018.
- Approximately EUR 187,000 was channelled via Finnish NGOs in 2017. The NGOs’ work at grassroots level supports, among other things, the protection and rights of children and the development of Palestinian livelihoods.
- Funds for local cooperation (FLCs) are used to support Palestinian NGOs. An appropriation of EUR 60,000 has been earmarked for 2019. FLCs are used to enhance women's and girls position and rights.
- Finnish humanitarian assistance is channelled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA). Finland funds the organisation’s basic activities with an emphasis on basic education and healthcare. Finland’s core funding to UNRWA is EUR 5 million since 2019. The core funding is distributed to five regions where UNRWA serves Palestinian refugees (Gaza, West Bank, Including East Jerusalem, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria).