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 nearly half of the population under the age of 18, children are severely affected by the situation.
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 Government. We now provide more than €10 million annually 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.
In 2014 we provided €1.5 million in funding to the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Ireland is one of five partners working directly with the Ministry and there is clear evidence that our contribution is helping the Ministry to provide better quality education services to more Palestinian children.
The capacity of the Palestinian Authority to deliver essential public services such as health and education is not only essential for the immediate welfare of the Palestinian people but also critical to the creation of a Palestinian state. Last year, through a European Commission fund, Ireland provided €1.5 million to the Palestinian Authority to deliver public services. Our support has been focused on services in the areas of health, education and social protection.
The largest single component of Irish Aid’s programme is our support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Since its establishment following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees.
Today, UNRWA provides basic services such as food aid, education and health to some 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza.
We have provided over €49 million to UNRWA since 2005.
We are very conscious that in the absence of any real progress in the Middle East Peace Process, continuing Israeli policies on the ground in the occupied territories are making peace more and more difficult to achieve.
Ireland has therefore for many years focused in particular on the injustices and infringements of human rights suffered by Palestinians in their homeland. These include the seizure of land for Israeli settlements, evictions of families, destruction of homes and farm buildings, of wells and water tanks, and of trees and crops, as well as movement restrictions and unequal treatment.
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 has been in steady decline and some 80% of the over 1.7 million people living there are now dependent on international assistance. The conflict last year had devastating effects. In response, Ireland has to date provided €1.5 million in emergency funding to UNRWA.
Read more about our engagement with the occupied Palestinian territory on page 36 of the Irish Aid Annual Report 2014