The Palestinian Authority (PA) has accomplished the tasks it set out to achieve two years ago to prepare its institutions for the responsibilities of statehood, but there remains a widening gap between that progress and the stagnant political process, according to a United Nations report released today.
“This is a considerable achievement which should be recognized, preserved, and built upon,” says the report, entitled “Palestinian State Building: An achievement at risk,” prepared by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), Robert Serry.
The report backs up the conclusions of UNSCO’s April report, which found that in six areas where the UN was most engaged, government functions are sufficient for the functioning government of a State. Sectors assessed included governance, rule of law and human rights; livelihoods and productive sectors; education and culture; health; social protection; and infrastructure and water.
The current report takes note of further progress and increases the breadth and scope of PA improvements in institutional readiness. It was prepared for the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), the 12-member body that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. The committee will meet in New York on Sunday.
However, the report warns that the achievements may not be sustainable in the absence of far-reaching political progress.
“I am very worried about the disconnect between what the PA has achieved on the ground and where the political process stands,” said Mr. Serry, commenting on the conclusions of the assessment.
“The reality is that there is only so much that can be done in conditions of prolonged occupation, unresolved final status issues, no serious progress on a two-State solution, and a continuing Palestinian divide.
“Further achievements in state-building require that the politics catch up with the impressive progress on the ground. People should realize that if we do not meet this challenge, the achievements the Palestinian Authority has realized will be increasingly at risk,” said Mr. Serry.
Reviewing conditions on the ground, the report notes that despite earlier progress in reducing obstacles in the West Bank, restrictions on movement and access continue and have had a serious impact on Palestinian lives and the economy.
There is also a significant increase in settlement activity in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, since the Committee last met, according to the report.
In Gaza, Hamas remains in de facto control and the security situation remains fundamentally fragile. The Government of Israel continues to implement a policy of closure despite some important easing measures, the report notes.
It also echoes concerns widely expressed by other institutions and warns of an immediate fiscal shortfall facing the Palestinian Authority.
“I hope that this Sunday’s meeting also brings renewed focus on the necessity of immediate donor support to ensure that PA financing needs are met through the end of 2011,” said Mr. Serry. “There’s a $300 million shortfall for recurrent financing.”
Noting the need to enable socio-economic development amidst continuing institutional consolidation, the report welcomes the PA’s National Development Plan for 2011-2013, and stresses the importance of continuing improvements in the social sector.
“In addition to the political issues which cannot be delayed, I call for far-reaching steps by Israel to roll back measures of occupation which continue to stifle Palestinian economic growth. We saw good steps in this regard during 2009 and 2010, but we haven’t seen bolder steps since then.
“If the weight of the occupation is not being lifted, all the achievements to date will be increasingly difficult to sustain,” he added.