UN-brokered system for Gaza reconstruction after 2014 conflict failing

The system designed to reconstruct Gaza after the 2014 conflict, is failing to meet the needs of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, as an already dire water and sanitation crisis escalates dangerously, Oxfam warned today in a new report.

Focusing on the water and sanitation sector, Oxfam’s research on the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) found the UN-brokered system is unaccountable, fundamentally flawed and gives the appearance of legitimizing Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza. The system is ultimately failing to meet immense needs, address Gaza’s de-development and enable construction of vital water infrastructure.

Oxfam Country Director Chris Eijkemans said the research indicated the GRM is formalizing rather than challenging the blockade and is unavoidably constrained by the Government of Israel’s control over the ‘dual use’ list.

“We are seeing a staggering escalation of the water crisis in Gaza, but despite mounting evidence that the GRM is failing to overcome the overall restrictions of the blockade, little has been done to improve the system and demand accountability to ensure the basic rights to water and sanitation of Palestinians in Gaza,” Eijkemans said.

“What was an imperfect, supposedly temporary measure has become entrenched within the bureaucracy of the 10-year blockade, funded and backed by the international community and providing an appearance of legitimacy to Israel’s ongoing control over the Gaza Stip.”
 
“While the UN-brokered mechanism has had some success in facilitating the entry of materials, it is inherently unaccountable and incapable of addressing the enormous needs that predate the war. The result for Gaza is undrinkable water, a dangerous lack of adequate sanitation and little hope on the horizon for better conditions,” Eijkemans continued.

The limitations of the GRM are compounded by challenges such as the internal Palestinian divide between the authorities in the West Bank and the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip, including limited and in some cases non-existent coordination or communication. The report calls on them to prioritize reconciliation, improve coordination and take a stronger leadership role in reconstruction and development.   
 
Oxfam research found:
  • 2,950 items needed to build infrastructure to provide water and sanitation are still waiting for approval to enter.
  • Just 16% of items that have been submitted for approval through the GRM specifically for water and sanitation projects have actually made it past the blockade to where they are urgently needed on the ground.
  • Of the ‘dual use’ items that are pending approval for the water and sanitation sector, almost half have been waiting for over 100 days.
“The international community needs to step up its demands for accountability on behalf of Palestinians who are suffering under an increasingly stifling blockade, with just 4% of fresh water fit to drink,” Eijkemans said. 
 

Notes to editors

 
The majority of materials required for the water and sanitation sector – an estimated 70% - are classified or treated by Israel as “dual use”. Justified on the basis of security, the GRM allows Israeli authorities the power to reject or significantly delay projects or specific items essential for the delivery of infrastructure, despite stringent monitoring undertaken and funded by the international community.

Oxfam urges key stakeholders involved in the GRM, including governments supporting the mechanism – among them the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Canada – to urgently press for accountability from the parties to the GRM, to ensure it complies with international law and provides for the needs and rights of Palestinians living in Gaza.

Oxfam calls on:
  • the international community, including the UN, to ensure that measures taken according to the security objectives of an occupying power do not violate the rights of civilians living under occupation, as guaranteed under international law.
  • the Government of Israel to immediately end the blockade and open all crossings in and out of Gaza, in addition to urgently removing from the ‘dual use’ list items critical for humanitarian and development projects.
  • on the Palestinian Authority and the de-facto authorities in Gaza to prioritise reconciliation, foster communication and coordination between Gaza and the West Bank, and take a stronger leadership role in reconstruction and development.   
Donors to the GRM include: Norway, Canada, Germany, DFID (UK), The Netherlands, South Korea and Australia. 
 

Contact information

Diana Qatamesh:  +972 569 111 353, Diana.Qatamesh2@oxfamnovib.nl