A British boost to the Palestinian economy will help businesses expand, create jobs and support increased agriculture, Prime Minister David Cameron announced during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Specific initiatives set out by the Prime Minister during his 2 day visit include:
- new funding for the Palestinian Market Development Programme to provide grants for nearly 100 additional companies, to enable them to target foreign investors and enter new markets;
- helping nearly 1,000 young refugee women in Gaza through an UNRWA programme to improve their skills and employability with short term job opportunities;
- help to restore farming land in Area C in the West Bank, which will benefit nearly 1,000 farming communities and increase agricultural production;
- bringing young Palestinian entrepreneurs and business people to the UK for short placements in leading companies under a Portland Trust/British Council initiative;
- funding for HALO to clear three West Bank minefields, which will hand back land to rural Palestinian communities, freeing them up for economic growth; and
- reopening a British Council English language teaching centre in East Jerusalem.
Speaking alongside President Abbas, Prime Minister David Cameron said:
I urge both sides to seize this window of opportunity. Britain wants to help build strong Palestinian institutions and a strong economy. And let’s not forget that all of this will benefit Israelis next door, where a vibrant economy will find new partners.
The final difficult steps towards peace will be hard but the prize could be great: a world in which the Palestinian people have their dignity, their freedom and security at last. It won’t be easy but this is a vision that we stand absolutely committed to helping realise.
Palestinian Market Development Programme
The new £1.5 million support for the Palestinian Market Development Programme is in addition to the £11 million the UK has already committed. It is providing grants or technical assistance to some 570 businesses across the West Bank and Gaza, helping them to target 420 new domestic and foreign markets and develop around 300 new products and services.
The programme will help ICT, agriculture, tourism and other sectors become more competitive, innovative and productive. It will also help Palestinian businesses target foreign investors and provide advice on overcoming barriers to investment in key sectors.
UNRWA job creation programme
The £1.5 million UNRWA job creation programme in Gaza will give nearly 1,000 refugee women the opportunity to take part in short term placements of 3-12 months in health centres and schools, which will provide a predictable income while also boosting their skills and employability.
This builds on the UK’s existing £14.4 million funding to this programme, providing work to 5,300 men and women in Gaza each year. More than half of all young people in Gaza are unemployed and 80 per cent of people depend on international aid contributions.
Restoring wells for Palestinian farmers
The new £6.2 million programme from the UK will restore 15 agricultural wells in Area C in the West Bank so that Palestinian farmers can grow fruit and vegetables that require more water but that typically can then be sold at a higher price.
UN analysis indicates that for each £1 invested in groundwater well rehabilitation, an additional 16.8kg of vegetables can be produced annually. Half of all Palestinian wells have dried up over the last 20 years and farmers cannot draw enough water from aquifers to meet their needs. Yet the World Bank estimates that better irrigation in Area C could boost the Palestinian economy by more than $700 million.
The UK will also provide up to £0.5 million to HALO to clear three West Bank mine fields and return Palestinian land to productive use, with the cleared land used to grow high yield crops.
British Council Programmes
The placement programme is a collaborative project between The Portland Trust and the British Council. It enables business people and entrepreneurs to develop valuable skills and to gain experience of world class business and industrial working practices in the UK through short-term attachments with leading companies.
High quality English language training is in great demand throughout the Palestinian Territories and remains fundamental to job and academic opportunities, access to the wider world and social mobility. The British Council has resumed the teaching of English in its East Jerusalem centre, complementing its existing teaching operation in Ramallah. The centre will employ highly skilled local teachers and has been designed to ensure that it is financially sustainable and can respond effectively to changes in the local environment.