Trip Report, Gaza October 2-9 1995

To:               Bishara Bahbah, ISEPME

          Ed Edwards and I visited Gaza for the purpose of designing follow-up activities to a conference on national goals and development strategy held September 14th. The quality of the conference was adversely affected by the Israeli refusal to allow many Palestinians from Jerusalem to enter the territory and participate. It was, nevertheless, a significant event.


Amra, Jordan 1972

          The conference revealed a very strong desire of the Palestinian people to share in the process of determining the sort of state they will eventually have. The facilitators of small group meetings held at the conference emphasized to us that being consulted is not enough. People want a share of the process, after being denied a voice by successive occupations since the Ottoman era. It is not easy to operationalize this concept, but the strength of feeling displayed in our discussions on this point made it evident that any follow-up would require a measure of popular participation.

          Consequently, we recommended a process for follow-up that would keep people engaged and at the same time build up the analytical capacity of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MOPIC). The participants at the conference had already indicated that they did not consider the results of their deliberations to be recommendations at this stage. They recognized that many of the issues require professional analysis before objectives and policies can be articulated. They thought that two more events should be held in order to formulate recommendations for the legislature that will result from the elections to be held next year. Ed and I undertook to design the next two events.

          Before these events take place, MOPIC will need to produce a report on the first conference. Mr. Isam Shawwa will, I believe, write this document. I have prepared an outline of its contents for use as he sees fit. It is important to assure the participants that their words were heard and that action is being taken to follow up as they intended.

          The next event will attempt to define the macro framework for planning. This is a set of fairly general principles and objectives that the government should seek to achieve in the long run. Papers will be written based upon seven themes we extracted from the results of the first conference, plus five more that would contribute to the framework. These are mostly but not all economic issues; they include such topics as relationships with the Palestinian communities abroad, and the unification of legal systems. Most of the papers should be produced by staff members of the MOPIC and their local consultants, but some would be the responsibility of other ministries, such as Justice. That meeting could be held as early as January, if work began immediately on the papers. In the memoranda attached, written for the Director General of MOPIC, Majdi Khalde, we describe the rationale for the meeting and provide a one-page description of the issues to be covered in each paper.

          The final event should be a meeting at which each ministry presents its goals and strategies in a sectoral paper. Ideally, that would take place around the time of the elections, but it now appears elections will be in January, which is too early for papers to be prepared. MOPIC will have a coordinating and assisting role in the preparation of these papers, but they should be prepared by the ministries concerned.

          Future involvement by Ed and me is unclear, as usual. The Minister took a great interest in the papers we wrote last time we were out there, in March, and they suddenly became best sellers. I don't think he had seen them before this trip. Now he seems convinced that MOPIC needs the capacity to analyze economic issues before they are discussed in the Cabinet, but at the moment he has no qualified economist on which to rely. Dr. Mohammed el-Samhouri, who attended Glenn's workshop and is now at a course at the IMF, seems best qualified, but he is squeamish about leaving his university for the government.

          Two other officials, Dr. Ali Shaath and Dr. Abdel Malik al-Jaber, think they have the Minister's approval to organize a planning unit, but I don't think either will get very far. We spoke with both and were well received, but in the final two days we were there, the Ministry was consumed by a marathon internal meeting over the division of responsibility among its constituent parts. This left no opportunity for discussions of the papers we gave them at our initial meeting.

          The Minister's visit to Harvard in mid-November should be a good opportunity to see more clearly the road ahead.

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