Resilience in the Palestinian Context

published by Nanki Chawla

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Humanitarian Aid
In the case of the State of Palestine, resilience-based theory can help link between humanitarian assistance and development programming. By working on both levels, a long-term and achievable strategy can be shaped to help prepare people and institutions against on-going shocks and crisis.
Resilience is the ability of individuals, households, communities, and institutions to anticipate, withstand, recover, and transform from systematic shocks and crises in the short and long-term.
Aid assistance to the State of Palestine can be summarized as limited, and some would argue political, to foster peace, security, and state-building agendas. After almost three decades of engagement, it is time to reconsider existing strategies and revamp efforts for a long-term and holistic approach to aid management and effectiveness.
Prior to the creation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), national and international development organizations viewed development as a means for fostering peace, within the paradigm of "development for peace," a sentiment that is still embedded in aid approaches across the State of Palestine.
With the signing of the Oslo Accords, a new era in policy and aid emerged to establish new protocols on the ground. The Accords replaced the previous paradigm, shifting focus to building systems and institutions motivated by a vision of a future, independent Palestinian State.
Since the events of the second Intifada, donors have re-directed focus to humanitarian assistance, denying the equal importance of long-term developmental programming to address the structural inequality facing Palestinians.
Construction on the 708km Separation Wall began, of which over 60% has been completed, reducing freedom of movement, isolating communities trapped in ‘seam zones,’ and causing extensive psychological damage as a visible reminder of the occupation.
Since 2008, Gaza has been engaged in three substantial wars with Israel, which have left Gaza’s infrastructure almost completely destroyed. The term ‘de-development’ best describes the uniquely devastating conditions for the population of Gaza under Israeli-imposed siege, which has led to persistent deterioration of standards of living, institutions, and infrastructure. Simultaneously, Area C of the West Bank (~60%) remains under complete Israeli civil and military control. The continually expanding settlements, alongside Israeli bypass roads, military roadblocks, and the Separation Wall, contribute to the deteriorating psychological, economic, social, and political status of Palestinians.
years of humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable across the oPt
years of development programming to support infrastructure and institutions
There is growing consensus amongst donors, implementing partners, the Palestinian Government, and civil society that the current form of aid assistance is failing to produce any long-term and tangible impact on the ground.
There is a deadlock at the political level, making negotiations for a lasting and viable agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians more difficult.
Key socio-economic indicators suggest that the situation is, at best, stagnating, or at worst, rapidly deteriorating.
The vast and crippling regional refugee crisis has drawn donor and policy-maker interests, efforts, and resources.
The steady erosion of Palestinian development potential, the degradation of its human capital, and gradual depletion of its natural resources are all outcomes of the combined effect of the Israeli occupation and a lack of coordination among aid actors.
The current situation renders opportunities for critical engagement. All discerning stakeholders and engaged actors have a case to challenge the current approaches towards humanitarian and developmental programming, in order to better respond to the growing and shifting needs of Palestinians.  
There is growing frustration among young Palestinians about their disheartening socio-economic reality, lack of decision-making power, and limited voice in the public sphere.
After decades of development and aid assistance, the time for reflection and introspection is long overdue
Aid assistance to the State of Palestine is inherently a political affair, and therefore developing strategies must address donor concerns while meeting Palestinian needs.
The Conference proposes a paradigm shift to better think, plan, and deliver on future programming, which is grounded in the indigenous doctrine of 'Sumud' or steadfastness.
'Sumud' emphasises Palestinian resilience and persistence in spite of the ongoing occupation, forced displacement, and land annexation.
Enhancing Palestinian economic autonomy and increasing access to basic resources by combining short- and long-term strategies is critical to reducing Palestinian dependency on the Israeli economy.
Emphasising ‘ transformative’ programming, which seeks to support Palestinian responses to the continued conflict and violence.
Resilience-based theories crosscut principles of 'Sumud' and therefore have a natural link for policy and programmatic underpinnings to learn and borrow from.
Given the protracted nature of the Israeli occupation and siege of the oPt, resilience-based programming offers opportunities to help reinvest in formal and informal systems to better secure, protect, and develop Palestinian capacities.
Palestinian institutions and communities have already demonstrated ‘resilience’ through the course of decades-long occupation and siege, thus the emphasis is now on how to work on building the transformative capacities of individuals, communities, and institutions.
If utilised to the best of its potential, 'Sumud' re-energises both systems and people to work collectively towards resisting the impact of protracted occupation.
What is resilience – theory and practice? How can resilience-based approaches support the Palestinian project of self-determination against Israeli occupation and siege? How can resilience be built and integrated into existing aid policy and programming? How can we measure the impact of resilience-based aid programming? How does resilience thinking relate to the Palestinian narrative of Sumud (steadfastness)? What are the links and how can they be harnessed for concrete solutions for Palestinians?