Today Hilary Benn, UK Minister of State for International Development, will begin a three-day visit to the Palestinian Territories to underline British support to the peace process and to see the political, development and humanitarian challenges facing Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This will be the first visit by a British Minister since the publication of the Roadmap.
Departing for the region Hilary Benn commented, “Implementation of the Roadmap requires painful compromises on both sides, but it offers the chance to create lasting peace in the region, and therefore greater security and increased economic benefits for Palestinians and Israelis alike. The UK is strongly committed to reducing poverty among Palestinians and helping build the institutions of a Palestinian State.”
During his visit Mr Benn will announce £10 million of new assistance to the Palestinians. This is in addition to the £5million announced at the publication of the Roadmap and will bring total UK bilateral assistance for this financial year to £40.2 million.
Mr Benn will meet with the Ministers of Interior, Planning, Finance and National Economy. He will also meet both Israeli and Palestinian civil society figures and visit refugee camps in Gaza and Jenin, and the security fence at Qalqilya.
Mr Benn will be in the Palestinian Territories from Monday 28 - Thursday 31 July.
During the last two years poverty has increased dramatically with some 60% of Palestinians now living on less than $2 a day. Unemployment stands at 53% and many families are now dependent on food aid.
DFID also contributes 19 % of the European Commission funding of which our share in 2002 was £31 million.
The £5 million announced at the publication of the Roadmap is being used, amongst other things, to support reform of the Palestinian Authority and to address emergency humanitarian needs.
The Department for International Development has recently agreed a £700,000 package for urgent support to the Palestinian civil police, and plan to follow this up with longer term institutional assistance. This is intended to help build Palestinian public confidence in the roadmap process by improving basic law and order and enabling access to justice for ordinary Palestinians. The money has come from the Global Conflict Prevention Pool (a joint DFID, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence pool).