The annual spring meeting of the international donor group for Palestine, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), was due to be held in Brussels on 1 April, hosted by the EU. The meeting has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. In its capacity as chair of the AHLC, Norway has today issued a statement on the situation in Palestine.
‘A significant drop in revenues to the Palestinian Authority as a result of the coronavirus crisis will have dramatic consequences for the Palestinian economy and for living conditions in Palestine. I am particularly concerned about the possible spread of the coronavirus in Gaza and in the Palestine refugee camps. The international community must provide support to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis on an already vulnerable population,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures that have been introduced to limit the spread of the virus are hitting the Palestinian economy hard. Palestine’s budget deficit is likely to increase significantly. This will undermine the ability of the Palestinian Authority to provide public services, to limit the adverse effects of the pandemic on the Palestinian economy, and to combat the coronavirus. The Palestinian health sector is particularly vulnerable.
‘As chair of the AHLC, Norway urges donor countries to increase their support to the Palestinian Authority. The PA is in need of substantial funding both to maintain normal operations and to finance its response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donors should also provide funding for the UN’s efforts in Palestine,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
Israel is also facing a very difficult situation in both economic and social terms. The UN has commended Israel and Palestine for cooperating on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital that all parties now provide funding and take steps to ensure that the growing humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population are met, and to stabilise the economy. To ensure the effective transfer of funds, donors should as far as possible make use of established channels for providing support, either directly to the Palestinian Authority, or through the UN, the EU or the World Bank.
‘It is in the interests of both Israel and Palestine to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It is positive that the parties are cooperating well on the response to the pandemic. At the same time, I urge both parties to try to find constructive solutions to other pressing issues, particularly financial issues. The current crisis could also provide an opportunity to move forward in other areas and break the deadlock,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.