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UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) must come to an end; not to be reviewed

Omar Sha’aban – Palestine

Introduction:

The three relevant parties: UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, Nikolay Mladenov, Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah and Israel’s Government Activities in the territories, Major Yoav Mordechai, agreed on a joint review of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), which has been in effect since September, 2014. Three years later, relevant parties have just realized that GRM needs to be reviewed! This proves the validity of many local and international observers’ position on rejecting GRM.

Summary:

After 2014 war and ahead of the Donor Conference on Gaza Reconstruction on October, 12, 2014, the United Nations through its Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, presented itself as an alternative to the Palestinian Authority and on behalf of the Israeli occupation to act as a mediator to allow the required raw materials to enter Gaza for reconstruction, exercise oversight over them and determine who is entitled to compensation and who is not from whose houses were destroyed. This deprived the Palestinian Authority of its duty to serve its people and added a new layer to the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip for more than ten years. Accordingly, Palestinian community, including the private sector, civil community organizations, intellectuals and researchers strongly rejected this mechanism, demanding the Palestinian Government not to accept it. The United Nations argued at the time that the Palestinian reconciliation process had not been achieved yet, and Al-Wefaq government, which had been formed a few weeks before the 2014 war, had not yet become valid. In his justification for creating mechanism for Gaza reconstruction, Mr. Serry said that the mechanism is a means of coordination between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government to accelerate the reconstruction process, adding that this mechanism will not only address security concerns, but will also enhance donors’ confidence, which will provide funding for the reconstruction process.   

Implications of the UN mechanism implementation:

Under this mechanism, the United Nations was transformed into a contractor and a guarding company; and the Israeli siege was replaced by an international embargo. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) oversaw the design and implementation of this mechanism. The United Nations, the one that is supposed to promote peace and justice and to correct injustice, has become a tool for deepening, organizing and supervising injustice.

This mechanism is very slow and extremely expensive since it employs dozens of international experts who receive unbelievably high pay packages and computerized programs that cost an awful lot of money. They all are responsible for monitoring the cement bag entering the Gaza Strip and ensuring it is not used for other purposes! It is worth noting that thousands of tons of building materials entered the Rafah crossing openly and officially, making it meaningless. Furthermore, strong suspicions of corruption in the application of this mechanism has been considered in many international and local reports. The foreign staff’s relationship with the war victims was marked by arrogance, uncertainty and inequity while implementing a few parts of this mechanism. Accordingly, local suppliers have been thrust into organizing many marches and demonstrations to protest against the United Nations, demanding the cancelation of this mechanism. I had warned on many occasions and shortly before the commencement of applying this against the approval to this mechanism. I spoke to President Mahmoud Abbas at the meeting, that included a number of businessmen from Gaza in the presidential residence on September 17, 2014, about the danger of accepting it. In effect, some countries and international organizations’ dissatisfaction with the UN mechanism led them to refuse working through it; instead, they preferred direct supervision of their programs in the Gaza Strip reconstruction. Besides, some global institutions expressed their dissatisfaction with the UN mechanism due to its projects implementation’s delay. The UN mechanism (GRM) has been expanded to include new construction demands, and is no longer confined to programs that were designed to reconstruct what have been destroyed by war alone.

What is UNOPS?

It is important to know that the United Nations established a trading arm in 1973, that is called the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). UNOPS provides project management, procurement and infrastructure services in dozens of countries across the world, such as Africa, Latin America and Asia. In other words, the United Nations, through UNOPS, replaces national governments, deprives them of their responsibility to serve their people and confiscates their right in learning and capacity building. The United Nations benefits from conflict and post-conflict reconstruction process, thus. For instance, shortly after the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi on October 20, 2011, The Secretary- General of the United Nations at the time, BAN Ki-moon, announced that his organization would send 200 UN experts to Libya in order to assess the damage and contribute to reconstruction. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, who simply did nothing to stop the war and destruction in Libya, rushed to send his international staff to guarantee a share of the reconstruction cake and ensure some high-paying jobs. Bitterly, everyone loses in Libya except the United Nations organizations, oil companies and intercontinental security companies that are triggered by conflicts. The situation will be repeated in Syria and Yemen when the war is over.

Reconstruction process must be localized:

Because UN mechanism is flawed, expensive and non-national and it is one of the causes of suffering and great economic stagnation in the Gaza Strip, it has to be stopped not only reviewed. With the signing of the recent reconciliation agreement and the start of the reconciliation government’s work in the Gaza Strip, especially at the crossings, the need for UN mechanism is lacking. Reconstruction is a national process with excellence, and the national and official institutions must take full responsibility for the process. Reconstruction is an opportunity to restore the political, economic and academic structures in the two parts of the homeland, which have been badly damaged by the division.     

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