Sir Vincent Fean led a high level British delegation to Gaza to host Britain’s biggest outreach event to Gazans for several years.
The Consul General was accompanied by Jonathan Hargreaves, Head of DfID in Jerusalem, and Alan Smart, British Council Director. The event brought together Palestinian businessmen, civil society leaders, Chevening scholars and other partners of the British Consulate General in Jerusalem such as the Paralympics team from Gaza who participated in London 2012 Olympic Games last year.
At the reception, which marked the lasting connections between the people of Britain and the people of Gaza, Sir Vincent Fean expressed his deep concerns about humanitarian suffering in the Strip. He reiterated the UK’s commitment to improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza through supporting the provision of basic services, supporting a dynamic civil society, and assisting with private sector development. He also emphasised the importance of all sides abiding by their responsibilities under the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.
Sir Vincent expressed his hopes for a brighter future, and made clear that Britain views Gaza as an indispensable part of the future Palestinian state, living in peace alongside a secure Israel.
The UK is one of the largest donors in the Palestinian Territories, providing about $145 million each year in support of Palestinian development. In Gaza, UK funding totals nearly $50 million a year, primarily to help the PA and UNRWA provide basic services such as education and health for the people of Gaza. Specific programmes include support for UNRWA to run a job creation programme that enables 5,300 people from Gaza to work in temporary jobs and so better support their families. The UK also provides 5,700 poor households with food vouchers to enable them to buy basic items at a time when many people are struggling with rising prices, and is building 12 new schools so that 12,000 children can get a decent education.
Every year, several Gazans also travel to the UK to benefit from UK-funded education programmes such as the UK government’s Chevening scholarships and HESPAL.
During his speech Sir Vincent Fean said:
“It is an honour as always to return to Gaza. I salute you, the people of Gaza. Proud, hardworking and enterprising. I am here to assure the people of Gaza that although at times I know you feel alone, you have not been forgotten.
Let me also say that Gaza is a fundamental part of the future Palestinian state – it is inconceivable to think of a State of Palestine which doesn’t include Gaza and Gazans within it. The UK is steadfast in its longstanding support for a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel, based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a just, fair and agreed settlement for refugees.
That is why we support President Abbas’ brave commitment to final status negotiations, even in the face of continued expansion of illegal settlements and the continuing impact of the Occupation. So while I understand the pessimism about the chances of success, today I say that there is no alternative. Gaza has already seen that violence brings only more suffering and bloodshed. Only successful negotiations will end the Occupation, and allow Gaza to take its rightful place as the soul of the State of Palestine.”