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March 19, 2013

Launching Asia’s New Partnership for Assisting Palestinians

Japan and its major development institution, JICA, for many years has been a major partner to Palestine.

But for the first time Japan has also begun close cooperation with other Asian countries to encourage state-building for Palestinians, in a move which also highlights the changing face of global development assistance.

photoJICA Senior Vice President Hideaki Domichi (left) and Special Advisor to the President Sadako Ogata (center) at the meeting

A Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) in February attracted participants from Japan, Brunei, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam as well as international organizations including the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to discuss their individual experiences in economic growth, their roles as partners and, critically, new ways and types of cooperation to Palestinians.

Japan has been a major partner to Palestine, placing it third after the United States and the European Union in development assistance. As Asia’s emerging economies rise from being aid recipients to becoming aid donors in a bid to assist Palestinians, Japan took an initiative to establish Asia’s partnership with Palestine and hosted a meeting to share their experience and knowledge in economic growth in Asia to help state-building and bring about peace in Middle East for the first time.

JICA Senior Vice-President Hideaki Domichi, outlined its ongoing cooperation in the region including the concept of triangular cooperation whereby JICA, a recipient country and then a third country all participate in projects.

JICA, for instance, has cooperated with Indonesia and Malaysia since 2010 and some 130 Palestinians undertook training programs in agriculture and small and medium-sized Enterprises promotion in those two countries last year.

photoThe meeting attracted 8 Asian countries and international organizations to discuss cooperation in assisting Palestine’s state-building

“After training in Indonesia, the Palestinians introduced new technologies for guava cultivation back home, which have contributed to increasing the income of local farmers,” Domichi said. “These projects are thought to be very good practices which transferred technique and know-how from the similar climate and business practices.”

Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza noted that donor support to Palestine was less than half what it had been in 2008, dropping from nearly two billion dollars to under a billion dollars in 2012 and that the country is facing a slowdown in economic growth. She added, “In Gaza, only a third of young Palestinians aged 15-29 are active participants in the labor force and half those are unemployed.”

“The State of Palestine” was granted non-member observer state status by the United Nations General Assembly last November, but Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said at the meeting that Palestinians are still under Israeli military control and remains in a bleak condition and appealed for international assistance.

JICA agreed with the Islamic Development Bank to start discussions on increasing financial and technical cooperation to Palestine. JICA will also seek ways to expand partnerships in wider regions in helping Palestinians in various arenas through such mechanisms as increased private sector cooperation.

The February meeting also highlighted the changing patterns of global development cooperation. Many participants have themselves received development assistance from institutions such as JICA, but as their own economies expand they themselves have become emerging donors.

The conference was also a recognition that development assistance can best be tackled by cooperative efforts involving several institutions and countries rather than simple bilateral agreements which were more widespread in the past.

Indonesia offered to host the second meeting of the CEAPAD next year.

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