UN-HABITAT has unveiled a new Programme Document for the occupied Palestinian territory covering the years 2010 and 2011 at a seminar it held on the challenge of sustainable urbanization and the need for effective spatial planning. The gathering was chaired by the Minister of Public Works and Housing, Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh.
Participants at the seminar last month agreed that the occupied Palestinian territory is fast transforming into an urbanized region and that sustainable urbanization should get a particular focus in Government plans towards building a viable Palestinian State. There was a call for participatory bottom-up, rather than donor- or government driven top-down solutions that take into account the Palestinian reality on the ground.
The Minister highlighted the urgent need to provide more affordable housing for Palestinians. Unfortunately, state land is mostly located in Area C, under Israeli control. In order to plan a sustainable future and to accommodate the needs of the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority has to consider the whole occupied territory. This means looking beyond the artificial division into Areas A, B and C, that has de-facto put a strangle hold on Palestinian Cities, Towns and Villages and has fragmented urbanized regions like the Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah corridor.
As part of the overall policy reform process, there is an urgent need for pragmatic and effective spatial planning tools, that would allow municipalities to mobilize private land for more affordable housing and basic services and infrastructure. It was clear from the discussion that this would require an upfront engagement with the land-owners and a more efficient organization of their properties, setting the ground for a more sustainable urban growth.
Donors were called upon to complement their current funding initiatives, and support UN-HABITAT in tackling some of the issues raised.
The debate was organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the Ministry of Planning and Administrative Development and the Ministry of Local Government, and gathered donors, international organizations, Palestinian Institutions and civil society representatives.