Last updated: 13 April, 2015

NGOs condemn donors over slow Gaza reconstruction

Six months after donors pledged billions of dollars (euros) for devastated Gaza, most of the money remains blocked, and reconstruction efforts are painfully slow, a coalition of aid groups said Monday.

Six months after donors pledged billions for devastated Gaza, only a quarter of the funds have materialised and not one destroyed home has been rebuilt, a coalition of aid groups said in a report Monday.

The report, “Charting a New Course: Overcoming the Stalemate in Gaza”, warns that further conflict is likely unless the world takes a fresh approach to the battered Palestinian enclave, by releasing the promised funds, pushing for a permanent ceasefire and pressuring Israel to end its nine-year blockade.

“If we do not change course now to address these core issues the situation in Gaza will only continue to worsen,” said the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA).

The report was published six months after international donors gathered in Cairo to pledge $3.5 billion (3.3 billion euros) in aid for Gaza which was devastated by a 50-day war with Israel in summer 2014 that left 2,200 Palestinians dead and 73 on the Israeli side.

But so far, only around a quarter of the funds have been released and not a single home has been rebuilt, the report found.

“Six months later, reconstruction and rehabilitation have barely kicked off,” said the report, written by major charities including CARE International, Oxfam, Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

During the war, more than 160,000 homes were hit, displacing around a quarter of Gaza’s population of 1.8 million, some 100,000 of whom were still homeless, it said.

But since the donors’ conference “not a single one of the 19,000 destroyed (or severely damaged) homes has been rebuilt,” the agencies said.

“Donors should make good on the pledges made at the Cairo conference and move forward with reconstruction and recovery projects for Gaza,” it said.

World Bank figures cited in the report show that only $945 million (895 million euros) — or 26.8 percent of the promised funds — have been disbursed with some donors expressing reluctance to release the money until the Palestinian Authority resumes a presence within Gaza.

– ‘Empty words’ –

“The paradox is that the lack of reconstruction is exacerbating the potential for conflict. By refraining from releasing funds due to fear of political instability in Gaza, donors are entrenching divides that heighten instability,” it said.

It also accused the international community of accepting the status quo in Gaza and failing to challenge Israel’s years-long blockade on the tiny territory.

And it denounced the lack of efforts to put in a place a permanent ceasefire arrangement.

“The international community, in particular the (Middle East diplomatic) Quartet of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN, should propose a time-bound plan to support an end to the blockade,” the agencies said.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam, said the speeches at the conference had “turned into empty words”.

“There has been little rebuilding, no permanent ceasefire agreement and no plan to end the blockade,” she said in a statement.

“The international community is walking with eyes wide open into the next avoidable conflict, by upholding the status quo they themselves said must change.”

The authors also called for Israel to allow free movement between the occupied West Bank and Gaza “in line with (its) obligations as an occupying power”.

The report also said the two sides must be held legally accountable for all “violations of international law” with accountability “an important measure for deterring and limiting future violence.”