The history of the FAFO living conditions survey in the occupied territories (FALCOT 1992) goes back five years, commencing in Cairo, where I had the good fortune of living in 1989. That lively city has lent its hospitality to, among a host of international organizations and institutions, the Palestinian Red Crescent and the Palestinian Hospital in Cairo. On account of Norwegian support of the latter I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the chairman of the PRC, Dr. Fathi Arafat, and the then director of the Palestinian hospital, Dr. Khalid Shbaeb. They suggested that FAFO take on the challenge of conducting a socioeconomic study of the occupied territories.
At the time, FAFO had just started a pilot study on living conditions in the Daqhaliya province in the Nile Delta, based on our experiences with similar projects in Scandinavia and in Eastern Europe. We were in the process of making ourselves familiar with Middle East affairs and, as it turned out, the Daqhaliya survey would serve as an excellent, indeed indispensable, preparation for what lay ahead.
The professional challenges associated with carrying through a major social survey in an area with no or scarce statistics, and the political challenge of negotiating and maintaining the political space necessary to implement complex field operations in the midst of the intifada were considerable. It was evident that there was an acute need for updated, accurate, comprehensive socioeconomic data which could serve policy-making purposes in the area.
In order to investigate the political and professional requirements, I embarked on hectic visits to the Occupied Territories for consultations. The results were not encouraging. Some frankly warned that we would never get in or, if we did, that we would never get out with anything resembling success. The initial responses were hardly surprising, given the fact that a survey of this nature and on such a scale had not been undertaken before in the area. But the discussions did give us a better idea of where the pitfalls actually were located, how deep they were, and how they might be avoided.
It quickly became apparent that the survey should be as broad as possible.
There was general agreement among those involved in the discussions that
the various dimensions should be viewed and explored comprehensively and
in context. A comprehensive approach would also ensure that relevant actors
could be certain to find something in the study that was germane and that
addressed their particular concerns. Then there was the question of which
areas should be included in the survey. Although it would be exacting, both
in scientific and in practical terms, it was decided that the survey should
cover all three relevant areas - Gaza, the West Bank and Arab Jerusalem.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs fully concurred with the aims and general approach that were emerging, and the then deputy minister, Knut Vollebæk, together with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, NORAD, ensured that we had financial support to start designing the project and implementing a pilot survey. In NORAD, director Per Ø. Grimstad and division chief Elny Bredde took a keen interest in the project. Following assessments and adjustments, we were all set to go in 1990. At this point we could count on funding for a full project from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who would foot most of the bill. Later the project also received generous backing from the Ford Foundation. Most importantly, we had obtained a high degree of moral and practical support from Palestinian personalities and institutions as well as the acceptance of the Israeli authorities. I could feel confident that we would be given the assistance needed to bypass the obstacles that were bound to materialize. Eventually, field work was carried out successfully in June, July and August 1992.
The outcome was the most comprehensive socioeconomic data set on living conditions in the occupied territories to date. Analytical work by Palestinian and Norwegian staff in the ensuing months was carried out with diligence and enthusiasm. This is reflected, in my opinion, in the present baseline report, much to the credit of the authors.
A few words about the data set. The information gathered is quite extensive; the set contains some 1 million data. The present baseline report provides an overview but does not, and cannot, cover the whole ground. I am happy to say that there is an abundance of material on living conditions in the occupied territories that can be utilized in future analyses. We look forward to setting in motion various in-depth studies.
It is my great pleasure to thank the many individuals who have made FALCOT 1992 possible. I should stress that the whole project, which has been led by Marianne Heiberg with zeal and professionalism, has been a cooperative effort involving a wide range of Palestinians, Norwegians and individuals from other nationalities. They come from a variety of professional and political walks of life.
Let me particularly commend Marianne Heiberg and Geir Øvensen on
their excellent work as main authors of the report. They have been aided
ably and untiringly by FAFO researchers Ole Fredrik Ugland and Steinar Tamsfoss.
The latter was in charge of sampling work, which was carried out successfully
under difficult conditions. On the Norwegian side, furthermore, important
contributions have been made by Camilla Stoltenberg, Helge Brunborg and
Lars Weiseth. Tone Fløtten and Kristine Nergaard have offered valuable
comments, as have Leo Eitinger and Gunnar Strøno. Nora Stene worked
hard to provide researchers with the necessary literature.
Although many Palestinian academics kindly conferred their support and experience to FALCOT 1992, the contributions of two individuals, who both worked with the project from the beginning, have been indispensable. FAFO feels a very special debt of gratitude to Salim Tamari and Rema Hammami. Without their expertise, wisdom, diplomatic skills and constant encouragement, the project would probably have failed at an early stage.
FAFO is also immensely grateful to Hasan Abu Libdeh and Rita Giacaman. Both have been towers of strength throughout the project. They have not only submitted invaluable contributions to this report but have also lectured in training courses and provided countless other services to the project and to colleagues.
The number of people in the occupied territories who have contributed advice, support and personal effort is truly vast. FAFO's coordinator in Jerusalem, Neil Hawkins, did a genuinely outstanding job setting up and managing the field organization. In the West Bank, I would particularly like to thank supervisors Abdel Rahmam Talahme, Badia Khreishy, Akram Shaaban el Eisa, Mohsen Abu Ramadan, Affaf Ghazawni, Sobheya el Hilew, Reem Mughraby, Nadim Hammouda, Ghasan Abdallah Nofal, Arij el Asy, Sanaa Asy and Abeer Mansour. FAFO's West Bank office administrator, Maha Sweiss, and data enterers Fahoom Shalaby, Arwa Dana and Randa Tawasheh also deserve mention.
In Gaza, the commitment of our assistant coordinator, Khalid el Sirr, was exceptional. Our Gaza supervisors, Maher Dahlan, Suleiman Ikhriwat, Mohammed el Ashqar, Najwa Jihlip, Rudayna el Smeri, Amami Sabawi, Nasser Jaber and Abeer Jaber made eminent contributions. Our appreciation goes also to Rena Zaqqout, FAFO's Gaza office administrator, and to Nadeel Qazzaz and Hani el Dada, our data enterers. Our thanks also to Mahmoud Okasha who advised and assisted in various aspects of the project.
The competence, patience and loyalty of the project's front line workers,
the 100 researchers who collected the survey data, were remarkable and vital
to the success of operations. FAFO is indebted to them for their tireless
efforts in circumstances which were often execeedingly testing.
This study would not have been possible without the assistance of E. Palgi of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, especially S. Kaddouri and R. Palmon was particularly important in furnishing FAFO with the detailed maps required to draw a representative sample of the Palestinian population. In addition, we are exceedlingly grateful to Meron Benvenisti, Dov Randel and Fredy Zach for their kind assistance.
Special thanks are also due to the members of the project's cooperation council, Feisal Husseini and Dr. Haidar Abd el Shafi. Their counsel, backing and thoughtfulness will be remembered with affection. I would also like to mention the valuable support received from UNRWA and UNDP, both of which provided members for the project's international reference group. Former UNRWA director in Gaza, colonel Zacharias Backer, gave us vital help in the initial phases of the project.
The Norwegian ambassador John Grieg unceasingly went out of his way to facilitate our work. Not only did he extend a warm personal welcome by opening his home to FAFO staff - he also boosted our morale whenever spirits were at a low ebb. His efforts will be fondly remembered. It is my pleasure also to thank the secretaries at the Embassy, Wegger Kristian Strømmen and Kåre Eltervåg, for their valuable support and help.
Of course, FALCOT 1992 would never have been feasible without the benevolence of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Particular thanks go to Deputy Minister Jan Egeland, who enthusiastically accompanied us on visits in the field, for smoothening the political terrain we had to traverse. We could always call upon him for swift advice and action. Anne Bauer and Hans Lehne of the ministry deserve our gratitude for their support and unflagging belief in the project. I should also like to express our appreciation to my former neighbour in Cairo, Mr. David Nygaard of the Ford Foundation, who supplied additional funding to cover local project costs at a critical juncture. Jon S. Lahlum of FAFO Publishing Department is thanked for efficient and professional handling of the manuscript.
The FAFO survey in Gaza, the West Bank and Arab Jerusalem has been, I feel, a unique experience for all involved. But FALCOT 1992 should not be allowed to turn into an isolated event. Rather, it should be followed by similar endeavours, all adding to our store of knowledge about Palestinian society and the Middle East. I sincerely hope that the fruitful cooperation we have witnessed between Palestinian and Norwegian scholars will continue in the years to come.
Terje Rød Larsen