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September 2, 2011

While Millions Enjoy the Arab Spring, Palestinians Are Increasingly Frustrated.

PhotoJICA has helped develop a practical handbook for Palestinian mothers on maternal and child health.

While millions of people are enjoying the fruits of the so-called Arab Spring, untold numbers of Palestinians are becoming increasingly frustrated and the future is full of risk, according to the U.N.’s top Palestinian official.

Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of the U.N. Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) responsible for millions of Palestinian refugees, was guest speaker at a recent symposium in Tokyo co-hosted with JICA which explored the role of Japan and his organization in the troubled Middle East region.

In a separate ceremony, Grandi, and JICA President Mrs. Sadako Ogata signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which the development agency will undertake water supply and waste water rehabilitation projects in the sprawling Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian camp in Lebanon.

Such assistance “won’t solve the problems (of the Palestinians), but it will certainly keep the situation more stable,” Grandi said.

In his seminar presentation, Grandi highlighted the contrast between people in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya celebrating the prospects of wider political freedoms, economic and education opportunities resulting from the Arab Spring which erupted earlier this year across the region and the frustrations of 4.8 million Palestinians living in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who yearn for the same chances.

“The opportunities are there,” Grandi said. “But if the political situation continues to be stuck and stagnant, those opportunities will diminish, go away and the situation will go from one full of hope to one full of risks.”

Mrs. Ogata emphasized that her organization followed a balanced and ‘inclusive’ approach in its Middle East work.

“How to bring the political part, the economic part and the educational part into a balanced overall inclusiveness is the key,” Mrs. Ogata said. “We should not just focus on economic development, but also ensure the social elements of development—giving people a chance to work and make use of their education.”

JICA has various education and health projects throughout the Middle East. It also encourages vocational training and small scale enterprises in refugee camps and is a participant in the so-called Corridor of Peace program in the Jordan Valley which is designed to encourage economic and agricultural activity and political stability in the volatile region.


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