Employment and economic conditions in the occupied Arab territories continue to be stifled by restrictions imposed under Israel’s occupation and the policy of separation, according to a report by the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The annual report of ILO on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories released last week calls for replacing the current security logic “with a development logic, based on a long-term vision of the economic, employment and human security interests of all the women and men in the region.”
The report states that despite some improvements in the movement of people, there has not been an improvement in the lot of workers over the past year, adding that there can be no change “unless the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation, and the occupation itself, are removed.”
The report underlines that all parties “have to come to a decision sooner or later on the next steps. The Palestinian economy has reached limits which cannot be surpassed without agreement and action on the two major constraints it faces: occupation and separation. Palestinian State-building should not be stifled and allowed to run out into frustration and discontent.”
This year’s report refers to the many facets of separation resulting from the closure of the Gaza Strip, the effects of the Separation Barrier, the separation of East Jerusalem from the West Bank, the multiple separation measures enforced in the West Bank, and the separation of the Syrian citizens of the occupied Syrian Golan from their homeland.
It recalls that settlements are the primary cause of the confiscation of Arab land, restrictions on access and movement, territorial fragmentation, and depletion of natural resources.
In his preface to the report, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia poses the question: “Can the divisions be overcome, physical and mental obstacles dismantled, and the human potential of the region’s millions of inhabitants released for the purposes of development? Or will this potential remain frustrated, with hope denied by conflict and a real development reduced to administering continuous humanitarian first aid?”
The findings of the report are based on a mission sent earlier this year to the occupied Arab territories, Israel and Syria to assess the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, including the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan.
While the report notes further improvement in the economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), it shows that growth is not evenly distributed because of the continued closure of Gaza, and consists in large part of catching up from a much-degraded base.
The unemployment rate in the oPt eased only slightly to 23.7 per cent in 2010 and higher economic growth has failed to translate into a significantly improved labour market. Youth unemployment has remained at a staggering 39 per cent, according to the report.