Australia and Palestine have continued cooperating to attain mutually beneficial development outcomes. Australia has implemented extensive aid plans in Palestine, aimed at facilitating further development in Palestine and promoting peace and security in the region. The current Aid Investment Plan will span 2015-2019, focussing on promoting inclusive economic growth in Palestine and providing basic services for Palestinian refugees. These two main objectives will be achieved by investing in various different programs including:
- The World Bank’s Palestine Reform and Development Plan, which aims at further developing sound public financial management practices.
- The third phase of the Australian Middle East NGO Cooperation Agreement (AMENCA 3: Palestinian Farmers Connecting to Markets), which aims at strengthening civil society in Palestine and providing economic opportunities for Palestinian farmers to help increase their income. An agreement to commence the implementation of this program was co-signed by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and the Australian Department of Foreign affairs and Trade in February 2016.
- The Australia Awards scholarship program, which offers university scholarships to young Palestinians in the sectors of public financial management and agriculture.
- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides Palestinian refugees with protection, health and education services.
In 2015-16, Australia has pledged to provide $19.3 million to the UNRWA and $23.5 million to cover the other programs listed above. This brings the total amount of aid to $42.8 million for 2015-16, a reduction of 40% from Australia’s $71.5 million provided in 2014-15. However, $42.8 million still represents around three per cent of all international aid received by Palestine annually. Also, the cuts to Australian aid for Palestine come in the context of unprecedented cuts to Australia’s total foreign aid budget.
The Australian Representative Office (ARO) in Ramallah cooperates with Palestinian government and civil society bodies to ensure that Australia’s objectives are met. Reports have found that, since 2009, Australia has helped raise the incomes for over 53,000 people in rural Palestinian communities, promoting sustainable economic growth. Since 2011, Australia has helped to improve water and sanitation facilities in 121 schools, benefiting over 71,400 students. Also, in 2014-15 alone Australian aid enabled 15,000 Palestinian children to attend school, maintaining an equal gender ratio for enrolments. Australia and Palestine will continue to work hand-in-hand to ensure similar outcomes are obtained in the future.