Speech/statement | Date: 18/09/2017 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende (AHLC Ministerial Meeting in New York, 18 September 2017)
Statement by Norway at the AHLC Ministerial Meeting in New York, 18 September 2017.
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this ministerial meeting of the AHLC in New York.
I would like to thank the UN and Under-Secretary Feltman for kindly hosting us.
Let me also extend a warm welcome to Deputy Prime minister Ziad Abu Amr, Finance minister Shukri Bishara, and Minister for regional cooperation, Tzachi Hanegbi, and our two co-sponsors, USA and the EU.
Over the past two years, we have made efforts to support strengthening the Palestinian economy through three strategic areas: fiscal sustainability, economic development and recovery of Gaza.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is political. It can only be resolved through a negotiated two-state solution between the parties. I welcome the ongoing American efforts to restart talks.
The mandate of the AHLC has been to underpin such political efforts through state-building support.
Despite a challenging political environment, the PA should receive credit for improving its revenue performance, for reducing its budget deficits and for making commendable fiscal consolidation efforts.
I would like to express gratitude to the efforts of finance minister Bishara in this regard.
We should also recognize the important progress in energy and water sectors. More water is now delivered to the West Bank. The Jenin power substation provides more energy, and the parties are close to resolving the remaining issues of the electricity agreement.
We cannot ignore that the Palestinian economy remains unsustainable. The growth rates are low.
We cannot ignore the consequence of continued Israeli restrictions and the domestic constraints on the Palestinian economy.
If the stagnant economic outlook persists, the Palestinian state-building project is at risk.
To improve the Palestinian economy and to prevent a further slide towards stagnation, the AHLC should address three main priorities before the next spring meeting.
First, efforts are needed to improve the fiscal position of the PA.
Incremental steps must be replaced by structural reforms by the PA. The Israeli transfer of the one-off payments to the PA to offset fiscal leakages is a positive step, but revenue losses should be eliminated in accordance with the Paris Protocol.
There is still no feasible alternative to international budget support to the PA. This is essential to sustain reforms. The budget support has fallen drastically since 2008.
Second, economic development must be addressed comprehensively.
The Israeli restrictions on movement and access to trade, especially in Area C, continue to seriously constrain the Palestinian economy. These restrictions should be eased in order to nurture Palestinian growth. I also call on the PA to enable private sector engagement and make an effort in generating jobs.
Third, we must address the humanitarian crisis for the population in Gaza. Their situation under the current closure is of great concern. The internal divide among Palestinian factions cannot be allowed to prevent their access to basic services like electricity, water and medical supplies.
Access and movement into, and out of Gaza needs to be improved. Donor representatives and relief workers should have regular access.
Further increase in the delivery of goods are needed, and the GRM-mechanism needs to be strengthened to also include goods from Egypt.
Let me also reiterate the united call at the Cairo Conference in 2014 to facilitate the return of the Palestinian Government to assume its responsibilities in Gaza.
In conclusion, all stakeholders of the AHLC – the parties and the donors – have a common interest and responsibility to improve the Palestinian economy and to create more stability as means to achieve one goal: a negotiated two -state solution.