UNCTAD, with funds contributed by the European Commission (EC), is stepping up technical assistance to support the creation of a Palestinian Shippers Council and the extension of computerized customs operations to the Gaza border with Egypt. The two new field projects will have budgets totalling €703,000.
The projects add to UNCTAD´s already-extensive efforts to help the Palestinian people revitalize their economy and build the institutional structures of their future state. They address key economic problems and were designed in close consultation with relevant Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions, international development agencies and concerned donors.
Palestinian Shippers Council
In response to a PA request, and in association with the Palestinian national trade promotion organization, PalTrade, UNCTAD is launching a project to assist Palestinian traders and shippers in establishing a Palestinian Shippers´ Council (PSC). The PSC will defend and promote the interests of Palestinian shippers; represent them in dealings with transport providers, relevant PA authorities, and regional and international bodies; and ensure proper coordination between different trade projects targeting the shipping sector. UNCTAD is signing the project agreement with the EC in Jerusalem today to enable project start-up in October.
The project will be implemented over a two-year period. The first year will be spent establishing a legally recognized PSC and training its staff and members. Activities will include training workshops and study tours to enable employees to manage the PSC as a “one-stop shop”; to enhance staff and members´ negotiating skills; and to provide training on modern transport operations, customs brokerage work, warehouse operations, port- and border-crossing operations, and tariff duties and regulations. In its second year, the project will conduct advanced training activities and establish tailor-made services to cater to the needs of the Palestinian shippers´ community.
New customs operation at Gaza-Egypt border
Meanwhile, with the additional funding from the EC and in close cooperation with the PA Ministry of Finance (MoF), UNCTAD will establish efficient computerized customs-clearance operations at the Gaza border with Egypt. The system employed will be UNCTAD´s Automated System for Customs Data Analysis (ASYCUDA++). The project is entitled “ASYCUDA Special Technical Assistance for Rollout at Gaza Border with Egypt”. The relatively short-term undertaking seeks to ensure proper application of Palestinian customs controls at the Gaza border following the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. It will feature the installation of an ASYCUDA prototype that has been under development since 2001 by UNCTAD and the PA.
Special efforts have been made to train PA customs staff in the use of modern customs-clearance techniques to ensure that customs operations are transparent and efficient. The project was designed in close coordination with donors and the office of James Wolfsensohn, representative of the “Quartet” (European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States), to arrive at mutually agreed arrangements with Israel to enhance trade at Palestinian border crossings. Preparations are also under way to implement an ASYCUDA Phase III project that will link all international entry points electronically and allow instant, centralized monitoring of Palestinian customs activities.