Friday, 22 May 2015

Which countries are failing to deliver Gaza aid?


JERUSALEM (IRIN) -- Gulf Arab states and Turkey have spectacularly failed to fulfill their pledges to Gaza, contributing to a two-thirds shortfall in promised assistance to the beleaguered enclave, a new report reveals.

Qatar has delivered just 10 percent of the $1 billion it promised, while Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait between them have handed over just over $50 million of the $900 million they pledged, according to a World Bank report seen by IRIN ahead of its release.

Last summer's war between Israel, Hamas and other Islamist militants killed more than 2,000 Palestinians – mostly civilians – and left more than 100,000 homeless by the time of an August ceasefire.

Despite concerns about political instability and the possibility of renewed conflict, the international community came out in force at an October conference in Cairo, promising $3.5 billion to help Gaza rebuild.

The release of the World Bank’s numbers comes a month after UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said that not a single one of the more than 5,000 completely destroyed homes in Gaza had been rebuilt.

Big donors come up short

Although $5.4 billion was widely vaunted as the takeaway figure from the Cairo conference, only $3.5 billion of it was actually allocated to Gaza.

As of late April, donors had given only 27.5 percent of the promised $3.5 billion, or $967 million.

However, only 35 percent of the aid pledged - or $1.2 billion - was actually fresh, with the majority coming from reallocated donations and emergency funding delivered as the bombs were still falling. Of this new aid, just 13.5 percent - or $165 million - has come through.

Qatar pledged $1 billion for Gaza and has delivered 10 percent; Saudi Arabia has given only 10 percent of its promised $500 million. Turkey and Kuwait both pledged $200 million: the former has produced only $520,000, and the latter none.

Other top pledges included the United Arab Emirates’ $200 million, which the World Bank said no data was available for, the United States' $277 million pledge, which is 84 percent delivered, and the European Union's $348 million, with a 40 percent delivery rate.

Gulf states have become increasingly important donors in recent years, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to emergencies across the globe. Last year, Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million to Iraq, while it recently announced it would fill the entirety of a $274 million appeal for Yemen.

Yet they have also been known to work outside the traditional humanitarian system, while there have been complaints of late payments (although Kuwait has been among the fastest states to turn pledges for Syria into cheques in the UN's name).

IRIN asked Saudi Arabian, Qatari and Kuwaiti representatives for comment, but had not received responses by the time of publication. more

University of Helsinki cancels G4S contract over support for Israeli prisons


The University of Helsinki in Finland has canceled its security contract with G4S over its role in Israel’s prison system.

Palestinian organizations launched a boycott and divestment campaign against G4S in 2012 because the British firm provides security equipment and services to Israeli prisons where thousands of Palestinians are detained.

Detention without trial and use of torture, including of children, are widespread in Israel’s prison system.

The decision by the University of Helsinki follows a campaign that was backed by unions representing its academics and students.

In April 2014, a petition was handed to the university’s administration, urging it to drop G4S.

Shortly afterwards, the university director’s Jukka Kola tweeted that the contract with G4S would be examined.

As a result of the cancellation, security services at the university will now be provided by a Finnish company called Turvatiimi.

“We welcome this decision by the university. We’re delighted that so many parts of the University of Helsinki community joined us in opposing the role of G4S in Israel’s human rights abuses,” said Teivo Teivainen, one of the academics involved in launching the campaign. more

World Bank: Gaza facing 'dangerous fiscal crisis'


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The Gaza Strip has the world's highest unemployment and Palestinians, Israelis and donors must take action to avoid a "dangerous fiscal crisis," the World Bank said Friday.

The report, prepared ahead of the bi-annual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) which coordinates international donor support for the Palestinians, comes nearly a year after the 50-day conflict between Gaza militants and Israel, in which around 2,200 Palestinians were killed.

According to the World Bank, the virtual disappearance of Gaza's exports can be explained by no other variable than "war and the blockade."

"The impact of the blockade imposed in 2007 was particularly devastating, with GDP losses caused by the blockade estimated at above 50 percent and large welfare losses," the report said of the blockade imposed by neighbors Israel and Egypt.

The World Bank urged the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the donor community to take "actions" and carry out "reforms" in order "to reverse the recent and worrisome slowdown in economic growth" and "avoid a dangerous fiscal crisis."

The report said unemployment in Gaza increased in 2014 "to reach 44 percent -- probably the highest in the world," with the poverty rate in the Palestinian territory reaching 39 percent, despite the fact that nearly four of every five Gazans receive "some aid." more