Brendes innlegg under møte for giverlandsgruppen for Palestina (AHLC)

Utenriksminister Børge Brendes innlegg under møte for giverlandsgruppen for Palestina (AHLC) New York 19. september 2016.

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 undersecretary Feltman for kindly hosting us. Let me also extend a warm welcome to Prime Minister Hamdallah and Minister Hanegby, Finance Minister Bishara, and our two co-sponsors Secretary Kerry, and High Representative Mogherini. 

The main theme in the previous AHLC-meeting in Brussels in April was on closing the fiscal leakages, and balancing the PA budgets. Since then, the two parties have successfully reached an agreement on the outstanding electricity debts. This agreement, once implemented, will transfer authority to the PA for the management of energy infrastructure, and has the potential to generate new revenue sources for the PA in coming years.  I congratulate and commend both sides for their efforts to reach such an important agreement. Once implemented, this is a significant achievement.

This and other achievements, such as the recent agreement on transferring the postal services to the PA, proves that economic cooperation between the parties to resolve outstanding issues can yield results. It proves too, the importance of leadership and the spirit of compromise. Now, the donors must consider providing necessary technical and financial support for the implementation of the agreement. I urge the parties to use this momentum to resolve other outstanding fiscal files, and agree on key infrastructure projects. With the stated goal of implementing some of them before we meet again in Brussels, next spring.   Such a trajectory is consistent with the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords, and vital for transition towards more authority and stronger financial viability for the PA, and for the benefit of the Palestinian people. 

This forum has always been about underpinning political efforts to resolve the conflict and realize the two-state solution, through strengthening the Palestinian economy and building institutions. This is essential to advance towards the two-state solution. In itself, this does not deliver peace – only a political resolution does.  I have repeatedly warned that the days where we could nearly automatically count on the donors’ commitments, are gone. Despite strong revenues and commendable fiscal performance, the PA is facing a precarious financial situation due to a significant drop in the budget support. This is not a result of general donor fatigue, but caused by an adjustment by some donors. In the short term, the donors need to realize that the PA will not be able to close the current financing gap by itself. Norway has decided to increase its budget support for this, and next year, and I urge the donors to consider additional support in this precarious financial situation for the PA.

In the last AHLC-meeting in April, I announced that Norway would develop a 2-years AHLC strategy addressing fiscal challenges, economic sustainability and Gaza reconstruction. Elements of such a plan is in the making. The scope of this plan however, is depending upon the parties’ own priorities and positions.  Despite harsh realities on the ground, here is how I see the way forward: The AHLC must consider, and have the ambition, to address two main priority areas over the next six months, with the aim of implementation before the next AHLC-meeting.

First, by stressing the strategic importance of strengthened economic cooperation to resolve outstanding fiscal issues, I urge the parties to build on the momentum with the electricity debts agreement, to close other outstanding fiscal files. It is vital that the donors are ready to provide necessary technical and financial support for the implementation phase.    Second, I urge the parties to reach agreements on strategic priority measures that can sustain the viability of the Palestinian economy, in particular implementation of major infrastructure projects, including energy and water supply to Gaza and the West Bank. When we meet again in Brussels next spring, there must be progress on these two main priorities.

In concluding, all stakeholders in the AHLC – the parties and the donors – have a common interest and responsibility to ensure that the AHLC continues to deliver results. In order to facilitate a more ambitious agenda for economic cooperation between the parties, through a combination of resolving outstanding files, implementing major infrastructure projects, and increasing donor mobilization, Norway will convene a follow up meeting in region before the next AHLC-meeting in Brussels. I thank you.