There is hardly a region in the world where violent conflicts are as frequent as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The World Bank, l'Agence Française de Développement and KfW are promoting numerous projects that aim to improve people's lifes. But how successful can development cooperation be in such a fragile environment? Experts have visited the region to get an impression of the local situation.
An insurmountable obstacle, the omnipresent Israeli separation barriers wind across the barren hills of central Palestine. Colourful graffiti and artistic paintings adorn the otherwise grey concrete walls in spots close to Ramallah, the economic and political centre of the West Bank.
This is where the ten-day trip of our evaluators begins. Their mission: to evaluate decentralisation projects in the Palestinian territories.
The MDLF Director General in Ramallah warmly welcomes his guests with tea and fine pastries. As an autonomous public Palestinian institution, the MDLF has a special role to play: it strengthens the local Palestinian administrations – regardless of whether they are in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.
Under the scope of the evaluated programme, municipal administrations selected municipal infrastructure projects independently that were then financed through the MDLF.
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Driving through the West Bank in an armoured car, past heavily armed soldiers and barred checkpoints. The enormous border wall towers above on either side – it is an oppressive feeling. Israel decides who and what is allowed to pass. The evaluation team is amazed that here, in this fragmented setting, decentralisation projects can be implemented.
The international evaluation delegation splits up into different groups to ensure that the insight gained into the reality of the Palestinian municipalities is as multifaceted as possible.
One of our KfW experts first tries to accompany the World Bank mission and obtain the documents necessary for access to the Gaza Strip. But there is no such thing as an exception when it comes to bureaucracy.
For the evaluation delegation of the World Bank, the situation is different: thanks to the World Bank’s presence in Gaza, its evaluators are allowed to visit the conflict-ridden coastal area.
Evaluation: impact assessment and lessons learned
Whether a project is succesful or not is determined chiefly by asking the following questions: What has the project achieved for the people in the partner country? Has their situation improved in the long run? Three to five years after a project has been completed, the independent Evaluation Unit of KfW Development Bank conducts an independent evaluation for roughly half of the projects completed to draw lessons learned for future projects and programmes.
Dirt roads take them to the community of Beni Suheila. Operations are already in high gear here in the one-stop shop financed with MDLF funds. This municipal facility processes around 150 enquiries every day. In two simple steps, citizens can apply for anything from a building permit to a mains connection.
The World Bank evaluators are impressed by the efficiency of the local administration. Its service offers a hint of normalcy in a municipality that is visibly marked by war. But unfortunately damage to individual municipal facilities financed with the programme’s assistance is observed by the evaluation mission as well.
The Hamas-controlled city of Gaza is also plagued by destruction. But the MDLF-funded waste disposal in the municipality works – with the help of donkey carts. Many of these carts can be seen passing through the busy streets and are now a fixed element of the cityscape of the densely populated metropolis.
At the same time, the AfD delegation is en route in the city of Jericho on the western banks of the Jordan River. Here a project is underway for new sidewalks and cycle paths to make non-motorised transport more attractive and safer. A new access road to the city was also built. One thing the evaluators notice is that many communities decide to use MDLF funds to construct roads.
The AfD team then travels to Al Dahrieh, a key trading centre for the region with the largest livestock market in the West Bank. The Israeli border wall frames the limits of the south and west of the city. In this case as well, the municipality decided to use the funds provided through the MDLF to rehabilitate roads: on the one hand, to reduce the chronic traffic congestion and, on the other hand, to better connect remote districts to the city’s main traffic arteries.
Meanwhile, a concrete landscape with swings, picnic tables and a small theatre stage is one of the accomplishments presented to the KfW delegation in the mountains of the West Bank. This newly built public park in the municipality of Beita with its 10,000 residents is an almost symbolic reflection of the situation in the Palestinian territories. Water is scarce, Israel controls the regional water resources. Parks in the Palestinian territories are therefore grey, not green. But it becomes obvious: it is not about colour and form here, but about creating a space – as rudimentary as it may be – to make artistic or sport activities possible for the residents of the municipality. The road built with MDLF funds that is visited some time later, however, raises some questions. It is virtually empty and leads directly to an affluent new residential area. It is not clear how the greater good benefits.
Sparsely populated desert landscapes roll past on the way to the next station. Not far from the Dead Sea is the historical city of Al Ubeidiya, which is home to many archaeological sites. Thanks to the MDLF, it was also possible to improve the local road network here and build a security wall for a primary school.
The route to Bethlehem passes Jerusalem, zig-zagging over the Israeli-Palestinian border. The experts wait in the city hall for the mayor who is running late. The reason: she is engaged in discussions to prevent the concrete wall around the city from being closed further. The priorities that shape everyday life in this sensitive context once again become clear.
Not far from Jerusalem’s city walls, the day’s programme comes to an end. The smell of kebabs, humus and falafel waft s through the air. The experts all feel a great need to talk. They sit together – as they do every evening – and share their impressions about what they have seen. Despite the fact that each group had its own unique experience, the picture they draw is similar: even though they were not convinced by all of the projects they visited, the overriding impression is that the MDLF has given the local administrations new scope for action that is being actively used to further develop the municipalities.
This article has been published in the 14th Evaluation Report 2015-2016.
Change of scene: on the way home, all of the evaluators come together for a final meeting in Frankfurt. The findings of the joint mission are once again intensively discussed in synopsis form and preliminary conclusions are drawn. Everyone agrees: the goal of the programme to strengthen all municipalities in the Palestinian territories independently of the respective balance of political power has been accomplished. But the projects implemented by the municipalities lag behind expectations, not only in the 18 municipalities visited (evaluation results).
All of the participating experts return to their desks with the collectively identified mission findings which they will use as a basis to create the evaluation report in line with the specifications of their respective institutions. Everyone is accompanied by the worry that the accomplishments to date could be at risk if the violent conflict flares up again. The conflict, the wall, the weapons – they are part of the environment for a project that promotes decentralisation in a crisis region.
Published on KfW Stories: Friday, 12 May 2017
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Non-existent or dilapidated infrastructure hinders economic efficiency and thus engenders poverty. When building infrastructure, the focus should be on sustainability, for example, by promoting environmentally-friendly means of transport. Factories and industrial facilities should also ensure that production is in line with ecological aspects to avoid unnecessary environmental pollution.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.