Spain strengthens its cooperation in Palestine with virtual visit by State Secretary for International Cooperation

Today, the State Secretary for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno Bau, concluded her virtual five-day visit to Palestine to strengthen Spain’s commitment to its development and learn more about the work of Spanish Cooperation in Gaza, East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank.

Cooperation with Palestine stretches back to 1993; in fact, the Spanish initiative was the first by an EU Member State.  During this trip, the Foreign Ministers of Spain and Palestine also signed a new Country Association Framework for cooperation, valid until 2024, earmarking one hundred million euros for the period 2020-2024.

Moreno Bau recalled that the defence of human rights is a “hallmark” of Spanish Cooperation and that Spain has always firmly defended its belief that the only alternative to the Palestine-Israeli conflict is a “fair, peaceful and lasting” two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

During the virtual trip, the Spanish minister met with local, national, European and UN agents, and paid an online visit to the refugee camp in Aida (Bethlehem), which was set up seventy years ago.

Initially she met with the 15 Spanish Development NGOs (DNGOs) on the ground, as “key partners” which currently run 53 projects, more than half of them financed by the Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency (Spanish acronym: AECID) in the priority areas of gender equality, defence of human rights and economic development, as well as humanitarian action. 

Spain is a significant donor in agriculture and carries out important work in support of the modernisation of rural society in Palestine, as well as the agricultural sector, which employs 35% of its labour force. 

The Gaza Strip is the area most affected in socio-economic terms, with a poverty rate of 53% and an unemployment rate of 45.1%. For this reason, during her meeting with the Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Nasser Kamel, and the head of the Palestine Water Authority, Mazen Ghunaim, Moreno Bau was keen to learn more about the Union’s flagship project to construct a desalination plant. Spain will contribute a million euros as a donor to the project. 

The issue of water is of key geo-strategic importance in the region. The construction of a desalination plant will provide a solution for the consumption and agricultural use of water for the people of Gaza, where the aquifers are overexploited.

In the humanitarian field, the Spanish State Secretary was briefed by the UN coordinator in the region, Jaime McGoldrick; head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) mission in Palestine, Gerald Rockenshuaub; and the European Collaboration for Healthcare Optimisation (ECHO) consortium in Area C of the West Bank about the general situation in what is a particularly tense political context, as well what was expected from the European response and the impact of COVID-19. 

Palestine has not suffered a devastating impact from the pandemic, with 1,517 people infected and five dead so far, but the coronavirus has worsened the chronic health crisis. 

The general situation is critical and over a million and a half people need humanitarian assistance. 

The World Bank projects a fall in Palestine’s GDP of between 2.6% and 7.6% with respect to 2019. There is therefore an urgent need to gather funds for health, education, protection, food security and water. 

AECID is contributing to the Emergency Fund in Palestine and the project for strengthening the health and emergency system in Gaza. 

The Commissioner-General of the UN Refugee and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, also met Moreno Bau to provide her with details of the management of the 58 existing refugee camps.  

During the interview, Lazzarini took the opportunity to praise the Spain’s record of support for UNRWA since 1958. He added that he trusted the Spanish form of donation represented by the Spanish UNRWA committee should be a benchmark for other European countries.  

UNRWA provides basic services, health and education to 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. This week the agency held its Donor Conference at which Moreno Bau also participated. 

The trip concluded with a cultural arts day in Gaza and a visit to the Palestinian Museum. At the end of the day, Ángeles Moreno Bau stressed that it had been an “extraordinarily interesting” experience and that she hoped to return in person “as soon as possible.” 



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