On Monday, 26 August 2019, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop titled: “Five Years After the UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism” in its head office in Gaza City. Specialists representing the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, the Palestinian Contractors’ Union, NGOs, and media participated in the workshop to discuss the repercussions of the UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) after five years. Khalil Shaheen, Director of PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, facilitated the workshop.
Engineer Ma’moun Bessiso, General Coordinator of the Local Team for the Reconstruction of Southern Governorates, said in his intervention that the GRM is subjected to the Israeli security requirements since its entry into force, and it is a treasure for Israel as it provides full information about the Gaza Strip and its coordinates. He pointed out that GRM violates Palestinians’ fundamental rights to adequate housing and the reconstruction of their homes destroyed during the Israeli offensives. Bessiso added that if applying the GRM continued, the reconstruction process would finish in October 2022 due to the Israeli authorities’ very slow procedures.
Osama Kuhail, Head of the Palestinian Contractors’ Union in the Gaza Strip, stressed the position of the private sector in regard with applying the GRM despite the official silence towards continuing its application in light of the increasing losses and deteriorating conditions of the Gaza Strip contractors, especially after 40% of the contracting companies were listed on the Israeli security ban lists. Kuhail added that the Palestinian authority has a direct interest when it comes to continuing the implementation of GRM, without taking into account the private sector’s interest. He pointed out that the Palestinian Contractors’ Union and private sector took a decision to stop dealing with the parties that support and apply the GRM.
Engineer Naji Sarhan, Deputy Minister of Housing and Public Works, emphasized that the GRM is unfair and does not meet the Gaza Strip’s needs; however, accepting it was made necessary by the demanding circumstances in the Strip following the 2014 Israeli offensive. Further, due to having alternative construction materials and entry of the Egyptian cement in the Strip, the GRM has become of no need as the work of the contracting and construction companies in the Gaza Strip shall not be restricted. Sarhan added that the total quantity of cement that entered the Gaza Strip according to the GRM is 2.4 million tons while the total Gaza reconstruction needs is around 3.4 million tons, highlighting the donors’ disavowal of their financial obligations towards the Gaza Reconstruction file. Sarhan also expressed his absolute support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Contractors’ Union in the Gaza Strip.
A broad discussion was opened. Thus, the participants agreed on the following recommendations; most significantly:
- halting the GRM
- Calling upon the donors to fulfill their financial obligations toward the Gaza reconstruction.
- calling upon the Palestinian official authorities to adopt and positively deal with the just demands of the Palestinian Contractors’ Union in the Gaza Strip, including the return of tax revenues as happened in the West Bank; to compensate them for the losses they incurred due to delaying their dues; and to continue stamping invoices in the Ministry of Finance in Gaza.
- Calling upon the international community to practice pressure on the Israeli authorities to end the illegal and inhuman closure on the Gaza Strip.