Poverty and unemployment rates still impose a serious challenge in Palestine, where about one out of three individuals (29.2 per cent) were living below the poverty level in 2017. Gaza Strip contributes more to national poverty than the West Bank; its share of the poor population is 71.2 per cent compared to 28.8 per cent of the West Bank.
Economic growth is the most powerful instrument for reducing poverty and improving the quality of life. In the case of Palestine, despite the increase of the Gross Domestic Product, this has not been noticeably reflected on reducing poverty and unemployment rates; on the contrary, there has been an inverse relationship between poverty rate and GDP increase.
In this context, The Islamic Development Bank, in cooperation with the UNDP/PAPP, initiated the creation and the design of an innovative initiative in Palestine called The Palestinian People Economic Empowerment Program (DEEP).
Towards a Solution
DEEP’s rationale is anchored in IsDB mandate of poverty reduction and the State of Palestine’s policy to reduce economic and social disparities and alleviate poverty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as espoused in the Social Protection Sector Strategy (SPSS). This rationale is further underpinned by social protection, economic empowerment and sustainable livelihood strategies deemed to be most conducive for poverty alleviation and promotion of social and economic rights. DEEP focuses on linking social protection with economic empowerment strategies to improve the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable households in the State of Palestine and enable them to generate sustainable income.
The programme’s overarching goal is to improve livelihood outcomes for poor and vulnerable Palestinian households and effectively enable them to extricate themselves from poverty. More specifically, the programme has a twofold purpose:
- Promote the economic empowerment and resilient of poor and vulnerable households; and
- Serve as an enabling institutional framework for poverty alleviation is developed that effectively promotes economic partnerships with and among the poor and enhances their resilience.
This model contributed to the revitalization of the Palestinian economy by supporting self-employment and micro-enterprise development as means to achieve higher economic growth and reduce poverty. Families that are not able to own and manage a self-employment activity in the short run, and particularly those raising youth who may be prepared for entrepreneurship in the medium term, are targeted with special innovative assistance, ensuring the development of their household capacities and assets over the short term and long-term empowerment.
DEEP promoted a learning environment among the different actors to encourage the accumulation and sharing of knowledge. To many of the leaders and young development agents in UNDP, NGOs, MFIs and the MoSA, the first phase of DEEP was a pilot to test and develop an approach to livelihoods recovery for more than 8000 poor families who turned within a few months into economic actors and active contributors to economic growth.
This experience motivated many governments and agencies to replicate DEEP in other countries. The DEEP team was requested to visit Comoros, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Syria to share the lessons learned from DEEP and to help them set up similar operations. These efforts to share expertise and experiences through South-South and Triangular Cooperation assisted in establishing a wide network of partnerships at the national and regional levels with technicians, practitioners and policymakers who continuously helped develop the model with their advice and technical expertise.
DEEP has yielded important good practices and lessons learned to benefit other programmes in Palestine, as well as in other countries:
- DEEP’s key vision and strategies are driven by local demand, aligned with the global context and complementing domestic policy.
- The design of the initiative is providing an incentive for all stakeholders to foster a win–win partnership.
- The multisectoral and multi-level management mechanism and coordinated policies are ensuring the institutionalization of DEEP.
- The strong and long-term commitment from the government is crucial to reducing poverty.
- Local capacity development is vital to ensuring the success of the poverty alleviation programme.
- Effective partnerships and synergies across a wide range of actors are scaling up income-generating activities for multiplier development benefits
- The main innovations are contributing to further South-South learning through a) the use of targeting and selection mechanism to select vulnerable beneficiaries; b) the requirement that beneficiaries comply with a conditionality to access finance (e.g., cooperating with implementing NGOs and MFIs); and c) regular follow-up.
DEEP was designed to be sustainable and easily replicable. This in turn allowed for an efficient standardized methodology of capacity-building, while remaining flexible and responsive to varied contexts. The programme was eventually implemented in different local contexts and different regions within Palestine, such as the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and different localities, such as rural and urban areas and refugee camps. It allowed working with different NGOs and MFIs, included the implementation of different economic activities across different sectors — agriculture, services and manufacturing) and was adapted to a national scale. The programme relies on 30 partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs) for their delivery.
Through its application of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach Framework, DEEP promoted inclusive economic growth by supporting productive, low-income households. The DEEP modality provides a solid and inclusive approach for targeting vulnerable yet productive households and engaging their members in sustainable income-generating activities, mainly through micro-and small enterprise development, to provide employment and bridge their consumption and income poverty gaps.