Palestine’s HLPF Presentation on Sustainable Development

Lucia Colicchio and Zayneb Kenney-Shawa

This year’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF) featured a Voluntary National Review (VNR) given by the State of Palestine. The presentation detailed the ways in which the Palestinian Authority (PA) implemented the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Most of Palestine’s VNR presentation emphasized the barriers to development caused by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Rebat Sabbah, NGO Representative for the State of Palestine, gave a response to Palestine’s presentation. Mr. Sabbah is the General Director of the Teacher Creativity Center (TCC) and the General Secretary of the Arab Coalition for Education for All (ACEA). In his presentation, he voiced the perspective of civil society and expressed disappointment in the progress of the Palestinian effort to achieve SDGs. He commented on the role of corruption in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli occupation as barriers to Palestine’s completion of the Goals.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals. https://prc.org.uk/en/post/3518/new-report-un-sdgs-and-the-palestinian-people

A video of Rebat Sabbah’s response can be viewed here:

Israel, Egypt, and the United States gave responses as well. Israel emphasized the collaborative role it played with the Palestinian government in reaching the goals of the SDGs. While Egypt’s representative expressed sympathy for the difficulties created by the Israeli occupation, Israel and the United States took a more defensive tone and blamed the Palestinian Authority for their lack of progress towards acheiving SDGs.

Since the circumstances under which the PA operates are singularly restrictive, Palestine’s contribution to this forum represents an interesting perspective on the process of implementing SDGs. Although its establishment in September of 1993 was a significant step towards increased Palestinian sovereignty, the Palestinian Authority has not been able to create fully functioning governmental structures, making it vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. For example, parliament is prevented from meeting through executive interference, so there is a weak rule of law [1].

Many of the PA’s shortcomings can be attributed to the many limits on its autonomy created by the lingering Israeli occupation. Palestine is not able to function like sovereign state and the Palestinian Authority does not have full autonomy over the territory allotted to them by Israel. With pervasive Israeli military presence, the internal instability caused by the political divergence between Hamas and Fatah, and the ever present tension with Israel, the PA has struggled to create working governmental, bureaucratic, and economic structures.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, at HLPF 2018. http://enb.iisd.org/hlpf/2018/12jul.html

As a result of these disadvantages, the Palestinian Authority has systematically experienced issues of corruption. From its inception, the administration has had a lack of checks and balances which caused corruption to spread to “the private sector, public administration, the media, NGOs and parliament” [2]. Instances of corruption range from nepotism, cronyism, bribery and bureaucratic corruption, and misallocation of government funds. Israel is a catalyst to this corruption as it owns secret accounts containing money collected from Palestinian tax payments, which are used to incentive the PA into taking certain actions by otherwise withholding money [3].

However, the PA has passed numerous pieces of legislation targeted at corruption. The 100-Day anti-corruption plan of 2002, the 2008–2010 Midterm Reform and Development Plan, and the formation of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Corruption Crimes Court are a few of many efforts to monitor and end corruption in the government [4]. Despite the plethora of invasive and structural challenges faced by the PA, it has continually addressed issues of mismanagement and expressed its desire to pursue sustainable development.

To learn more about how Palestine is working to acheive the Sustainable Development Goals, read their Voluntary National Review here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/20024VNR2018PalestineNEWYORK.pdf

References:

[1] Abrams, Elliot. “Corruption in the Palestinian Authority.” Council on Foreign Relations. April 5, 2018. Accessed July 11, 2018. https://www.cfr.org/blog/corruption-palestinian-authority.

[2] Chene, Maria. “Overview of corruption and anti-corruption in Palestine.” Transparency International. 19 January 2012. Accessed 10 July 2018. Page 5 https://www.u4.no/publications/overview-of-corruption-and-anti-corruption-in-palestine.pdf

[3] Dana, Tariq. “Corruption in Palestine: A Self-Enforcing System.” Al Shabaka. 19 August 2015. Accessed 11 July 2018. Page 5. https://al-shabaka.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Dana_policybrief_En-Aug_2015.pdf

[4] Ramahi, Sawson. “Corruption in the Palestinian Authority.” Middle East Monitor. AMAN. Page 8. https://www.aman-palestine.org/data/itemfiles/b2a7e241322895ba53fdd6425a55c40a.pdf