02.04.2008 International

UK to give £32m extra to meet urgent Palestinian needs in 2008

02.04.2008 LISTEN
By Sarah Thoms

The UK today committed to provide £32 million extra in aid for Palestinians in 2008 as part of an overall pledge to give up to £243m in the next three years linked to political progress. This will take our total contribution to £63.6 million for the year between April 2007 and March 2008. The funds will help to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, pay teachers, doctors and engineers and keep basic services running.

The announcement by Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for International Development, follows a pledge by the international community last year to give more than £3.5 billion in aid to the Palestinian Authority. The UK pledged to give up to £243 million linked to political progress between 2008 and 2011. The UK is one of the first donors to follow through on its Paris pledge.

Douglas Alexander said:

"I am extremely concerned about the situation in Gaza. While only a political solution can resolve the situation, we must do what we can to help. Today's announcement marks a big step towards fulfilling the UK's pledge of up to £243 million over the next three years, linked to political progress.

"The support will ensure the Palestinian Authority can pay the salaries of key public workers such as doctors, teachers and engineers. They are playing an invaluable role in keeping Palestinian society on its feet in the face of huge obstacles and deserve our support.

"When I met Prime Minister Fayyad in January, he asked for urgent help and I am pleased the UK is able to respond so quickly. This underlines the deep concern we have for the welfare of the Palestinian people, many of whom are suffering great hardship in Gaza."

The additional funding includes:

* £30m in financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) through the World Bank and the European Commission. In addition to supporting services, this will play an important role in underpinning the PA's commitment to the peace process and to reform.

* A £2 million contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Combined with the £100 million over five years which we provide to UNRWA and our support to the PA, this will play an important role in meeting the humanitarian needs of people in Gaza. Mr Alexander announced this to Parliament on 12 March.

UK aid to the Palestinians is subject to the highest level of scrutiny. All funding will be managed by the EC, World Bank or ICRC.

Since the start of the Oslo peace talks in 1992 the UK has given more than £450 million and remains committed to helping the Palestinian people and supporting the peace process.

Notes to editors

1. There are 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza and a further 2.5 million in the West Bank. These are known collectively as the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).

2. The recent air strikes and incursions have exacerbated an already grave humanitarian situation. 80% of the population is at least partly dependent on food aid and 90% of the mains water is polluted (UN OCHA).

3. PEGASE is the EC's new way of funding the Palestinians. It stands for Mécanisme Palestino-Européen de Gestion de l'Aide Socio-Economique and replaces the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM). It was officially launched in February 2008.

4. In order to continue funding following the election of the Hamas-led Government (elected in 2006) the European Commission set up the Temporary International Mechanism in June 2006. This has channelled £188 million in aid (including £15 million from the UK) to help those living in Gaza and the West Bank. It has:

* Paid for over 57 million litres of fuel for the Gaza Electricity Company and generators at hospitals and water installations. This has kept essential services working for 1.3 million people in Gaza.

* Paid allowances to help 150,000 public sector workers and the poorest Palestinians. This means that around 1 million Palestinians are in families directly benefiting from the TIM.

* Paid for essential drugs and equipment in hospitals and primary healthcare facilities.

* Paid for essential maintenance and repair work for water, sanitation and electricity services.

1. Following the election of Hamas in January 2006 the UK and EU did not stop giving aid to the Palestinians. Britain gave £30 million in 2006/07 – the same amount it had given in 2005/06. Total EU aid went up from £379 million in 2005 to an estimated £472 million in 2006 – a 25% increase.

2. The international community does not engage with Hamas because it has failed to accept the three principles set out by the UN, EU, US and Russia (known as the Quartet). These are: committing to non-violence, recognising the state of Israel and accepting past agreements. President Mahmoud Abbas and his government have accepted these principles

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