Global Communities supports the development of the economy in the West Bank and Gaza both directly, and also by implementing programs to improve the human, economic, infrastructural, and governance resources of the region over the long-term.
Creating an Enabling Environment
The bulk of Global Communities' current work in the West Bank and Gaza focuses on helping local communities improve governance and be more efficient, responsive and inclusive of all members of their community. This kind of capacity-building and structural work is critical to ensure a strong foundation for a growing economy.
Responsive and efficient local governance is a prerequisite for sustainable economic development. Through its Governance and Urban Management initiatives, Global Communities works with each municipality to strategize, prioritize and plan for upcoming local development. Through participatory community engagement, municipalities identify priority areas for growth as well as current gaps and work together to implement the necessary improvements in human resource capacity, administrative systems and processes and urban management.
Rehabilitation and construction of infrastructure
A key element of creating an enabling environment, Global Communities rehabilitates and constructs infrastructure necessary to local development - economic and otherwise. Improved infrastructure may connect entrepreneurs with new markets, reduce transport time to move crops and other products, and alleviate the crippling effects of flooding and other weather-related interruptions so that people can get to work and access needed goods and services in their communities.
Building Human Resource Capacity
Global Communities prioritizes development of the human side of the economy, emphasizing the empowerment of youth, women, and other historically disenfranchised groups, and providing training as required to build the capacity of municipal staff and community members.
Through the Engineering Fellows Program Global Communities links young engineers to professional fellowships in their field. The project targets young engineers who are unemployed but fully credentialed – putting them to work on Global Communities projects, at the offices of the Engineering Association, or at local municipalities, thus utilizing their knowledge and skills within the context of developing critical infrastructure while providing them with hands on experience that will help them to obtain meaningful work in the future. Fellows also receive an impressive list of technical training courses, including site safety, construction management, quality control, green building, etc., and soft skills training in leadership and communication. Fellows also partake in site visits to expand their knowledge of the construction sector, visiting sites such as the local wastewater treatment plants and the new planned community of Rawabi.
Another innovative aspect about this program is that the fellows are also eligible to participate in a competitively selected Young Green Engineers component, the first of its kind in the West Bank. Each year 2-3 fellows intern with Khatib & Alami, one of the leading engineering firms in the Arab world working in the field of sustainable and green building design and construction. The fellows receive in-depth training in the American green building system known as LEED and become familiar with the Emirati equivalent, ISTIDAMA.
Aziz al Hadareen, 25 years old, graduate in Civil Engineering from the Palestine Polytechnic University, Hebron, former Engineering Fellow with Global Communities: “I come from a Bedouin village east of Yatta. It’s like a desert there, we are located far away from the city of Hebron and you can hardly find anyone who studied Engineering in my village.” Aziz was among the first in his village to break the routine and study engineering. Most students there, he says, study to become teachers.
Expanding Access to Credit and Consumer Education
Credit and microfinance
Through VITAS Palestine (formerly Ryada or `pioneer' in Arabic), Global Communities has been providing loans to underserved Palestinians since 1994, with funding from USAID. Considered one of the first credit programs in the Palestinian territories, the program expanded to the West Bank in 2001. The program eventually spun off into a for-profit company, first known as Ryada and now as VITAS Palestine, providing micro and small loans for home improvements, business development, residential land and apartment purchases.
Supporting Job Creation
Employment in the West Bank & Gaza
The deteriorating humanitarian situation, stifled economy, and high unemployment in the West Bank & Gaza have worsened the already precarious living conditions of those living in the area. The construction of the separation barrier has meant the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs for Palestinians who worked in Israel, and the tense security situation that continues to prevail in the region has substantially affected the lives of the more than 3.7 million Palestinians living in the area. Additionally, the difficulties in movement between the West Bank & Gaza and Israel, and internally within the West Bank, prevent people, goods and services from moving easily, and the cost of transportation and imported products are high.
Previous Programs in Economic Development
- Large-scale consumer awareness campaigns via print, television, radio & kiosks: targeted to potential new Palestinian homebuyers across the West Bank these campaigns addressed topics related to home buying and the homeownership process, focusing on subject areas where lack of consumer knowledge or understanding could result in poor decision-making.
- Empowering consumers to make sound investment & financial decisions: PHEP addressed issues such as purchasing registered/unregistered property, the potential pitfalls of developer-provided financing, clauses that consumers should consider including in a real estate purchase contract, and other issues related to the type and quality of housing for consumers to consider when making a major investment decision.
- Introduction of hands-on, adult-learning methods of finance management: Wide distribution of simple, consumer-friendly tools provided consumers with tailored first-hand information to inform their decisions about purchasing a home.
- Introduction of real-estate curricula: Through PHEP, Global Communities prepared university students and real estate professionals for the area's growing housing market via new real estate curricula, and also explored ways to institutionalize training materials in higher education programs and with professional associations.
In response to these challenges, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with Global Communities to implement the three-year, $34 million Emergency Jobs Program (EJP). The objective of EJP was to stimulate jobs creation through collaboration with the public and private sector, communities, and local organizations to implement small scale, labor intensive infrastructure projects throughout the West Bank.
Key Accomplishments of EJP
- Construction of over 200 small-scale infrastructure projects: Construction and maintenance of more than 200 projects throughout the West Bank and Gaza provided work opportunities for targeted communities
- Short- and long-term employment in construction & maintenance: EJP provided short term employment through the construction of these projects and long-term employment through jobs created by the maintenance and operations of the infrastructure constructed.