Responding to Change comes at a time when the march of events in the Middle East is accelerating. The breakthrough in the Peace Process and the establishment of Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and the Jericho area are reshaping the region before our very eyes, politically, economically and psychologically. Possibilities that could hardly be dreamed of not long ago, now appear within reach.
FAFO has been privileged to follow developments at close hand. The present study builds on and extends the FAFO study on living conditions in the Occupied Territories, FALCOT 92, the results of which were outlined and discussed in Palestinian Society. This report was presented to the Refugee Working Group (Multilateral Peace Process) in Oslo in May 1993. As it happened, that meeting took place at a propitious time in the Peace Process. At the Oslo meeting, we were encouraged to undertake an update which would capture changes since the border closure. With the backing of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, therefore, we immediately proceeded to plan a follow-up study, named FALUP. Although the focus and substantive content of the new study were altered somewhat, we could make full use of experiences, findings and models from FALCOT. We decided to focus on the economic conditions of refugees and displaced persons in West Bank camps and in the whole of Gaza.
The results of FALUP are now available in Responding to Change. Our ambition is that they should enter the general policy dialogue about the future of Gaza and the West Bank. Above all, it is our hope that the new report will give Palestinian authorities valuable input and help in the formulation of national policies for economic development. If the economic situation of the people in Gaza and the West Bank continues to deteriorate, not only will the daily lives of ordinary people be adversely affected, but the whole Peace Process may be placed in jeopardy. On the positive side, it must be noted that the international community is gradually becoming conscious of the gravity of the situation. We sincerely hope that the new report will help focus efforts, so that international programmes take into consideration, and address, crucial changes in the socio-economic realities in Gaza and on the West Bank.
The project would not have been possible without the commitment and support of a number of Palestinian individuals and institutions. As indicated, the survey and the report should be seen in the context of efforts to enhance Palestinian capacities for data collection and analysis, with a view to laying the foundations for informed policy planning. The cooperation between FAFO and the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics (PBS) is a cornerstone in ongoing work towards these ends. We are indebted to the Director of PBS, Dr. Hasan Abu Libdeh, for his support and advice.
Neil Hawkins, FAFO's Middle East Coordinator, worked unceasingly to ensure that survey operations would be conducted smoothly and efficiently. FAFO's local staff must be thanked for their dedication and hard work. Our gratitude is due to Rena Zaqqout and Akram Atallah, who worked tirelessly to ensure the quality of the survey, and who efficiently supervised and directed every stage of the field work from recruitment to data entry. The FAFO supervisory staff in both Gaza and the West Bank must be commended for their contributions to the design of the questionnaire, the field work organisation and the management of the field work. They made this survey theirs by their tremendous enthusiasm as well as their extensive experience. It gives me great pleasure to mention them by name: Ghassan Hamed-Sana'assi, Abeer Mansour, Sobheya Hilew, Reem Moughraby, Badia Tahboub, Mohammed Al Ashqar, Najwa El Jikhlip, Rudayna Al Smari, and Maher Dahlan.
Our thanks are also extended to Hani Dada and Arwa Da'na, who were essential in organising the data entry, and Khalid El Sirr, who once again proved his competence in the sampling process. The twenty-five data collectors, most of whom had worked on FALCOT, have a major share in the success of the FALUP survey. Their commitment and energy were impressive. They adopted a professional attitude from the start. Our thanks also go to all those anonymous volunteers who devoted time and effort to assisting our field staff in their work.
We have been fortunate in having a close working relationship with the Gaza Trade Unions. Rassem el Bayyary was generous in allowing us to use the Unions' facilities and office in Khan Younis in Gaza.
I wish to salute the ten FAFO staff members who are being transferred to the newly established Palestinian Bureau of Statistics (PBS), which is being funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We feel sad about finishing our acquaintance with them, but also proud that they will be able to play a vital role in this key Palestinian institution. They, and the PBS, will benefit from all those years of training and experience. We wish them every success in their new jobs.
On the Israeli side, Freddy Zach once again provided valuable help. We are also grateful to Professor Moshe Sicron, Dr. Zvi Eisenbach and Elisha Palgi of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics for their informed comments on FALCOT. Ambassador Joseph Hadass' kind advice and encouragement have been greatly appreciated.
Support from the UN system was very much in evidence. Roger Guarda, Resident Representative of the UNDP in Jerusalem, played an important role by securing financial support for the training of FAFO staff prior to the survey. Consequently, our staff was fully prepared to tackle the many challenges related to the survey.
At UNRWA, Lee O'Brien and Dr. Alex Pollock must be thanked for their very useful advice on the construction of the questionnaire, as well as their input at the analytical stage. Their scrupulous and knowledgeable counsel really made a difference.
We are grateful that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs took quick action to support the project. FALUP has been financed by the Ministry. Warm thanks go to Deputy Minister Jan Egeland and Deputy Minister Asbjørn Mathisen. Deputy Director Hans Fredrik Lehne was also most obliging. Funds from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, based in Chicago, helped us carry out project plans, for which we are highly appreciative.
Clearly, Responding to Change is the result of assistance from a multitude of sources, and of an impressive pooling of talents and efforts. But if anyone deserves special mention, it must be Geir Øvensen, main author of the report. Geir Øvensen, who received important support and advice from Research Director Jon Pedersen throughout the process, worked with vigour, thoroughness and an ever inquisitive mind. Professor Knud Knudsen offered comprehensive and highly valuable comments on early drafts of the manuscript.
I am pleased to record the contributions of FAFO's Norwegian staff. Liv Jorunn Stokke provided indispensable help in the training of supervisors and data collectors, while Steinar Tamsfoss assisted in sampling work with characteristic professionalism. Research Director Jon Hanssen-Bauer aided ably in the coordination and planning of the project, particularly in the early stages. Special Adviser Jan Dietz should be commended for his organising skills and imaginative contributions to report work. Gudrun Thoner read the manuscript critically and constructively, in addition to helping assemble the many informative figures in the report. Further, Dag Tuastad offered useful comments.
Jon S. Lahlum did an excellent job on the technical side, steering the production of the report with a steady, imperturbable hand. I also want to thank Susan Høivik for her proofreading of the manuscript and her valuable suggestions.
Work to broaden and deepen our knowledge of living conditions in the Middle East must not only simply go on. It must advance - in terms of both quantity and quality. The Peace Process may be contingent on such progress. The Refugee Working Group in the Multilateral Peace Process will be an important catalyst in future endeavours to promote economic development, bridge political differences, narrow social gaps and create regional cooperation in the Middle East. FAFO wishes to play its part, being ready to cooperate with all institutions that have an interest in applied science and in translating theoretical insights into political action. The publication of Responding to Change will, I hope, be interpreted as a sign of FAFO's continuing commitment.
Geir O. Pedersen