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Humanitarian Space


Humanitarian space refers to an operational environment that allows humanitarian actors to provide assistance and services according to humanitarian principles and in line with international humanitarian law. Humanitarian organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) continue to face a range of obstacles that hamper their ability to provide assistance and protection to Palestinians in need across the oPt.

These obstacles primarily include physical and administrative restrictions on the access of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and UN personnel, especially national employees; restrictions on the delivery of materials needed for humanitarian projects; and limitations on the implementation of projects that involve building, expanding or rehabilitating infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, agencies face a range of difficulties operating in Area C, due to the restrictive planning regime applied by Israel and restrictions to obtaining building permits. In the past two years, there has been a worrisome increase in the Israeli militarys demolition of donor-funded assistance. Humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip are also hampered by the "no contact" policy adopted by certain countries and donors, prohibiting contact with the de facto Hamas authorities, even on an operational level. The work of international NGOs is also impeded by the de facto authorities due to demands related to the application of tax regulations and the issuance of exit permits from Gaza.

  Israeli forces seizing a truck of shelter-related assistance in Mak-hul community, where structures were demolished on 16 September 2013. Credit: Elisa Paz (Spanish Cooperation), September 2013   

Key Trends in 2013

• Demands for search of UN vehicles, in contravention of the 1946 Convention on UN Privileges and Immunities, continues to be the main cause of incidents affecting UN staff, mainly when passing through Barrier checkpoints in the Jerusalem area.

• Between January and October 2013, Israeli forces demolished 101 donor-funded structures in Area C of the West Bank, up from a total of 79 in all of 2012. During the same period, the Israeli military seized 65 items of donor funded assistance, mainly residential shelters (36).

• The approval process for UN projects in Gaza remains cumbersome: Over US$92 million worth of rehabilitation and community development projects remain pending approval, for an average of 12 months.

• Access for UN and international NGO staff wishing to enter or exit Gaza through Erez crossing has improved since 2011, due largely to a more transparent and streamlined application process.  


OCHA oPt Resources

Updates on Humanitarian Access (published quarterly in the Humanitarian Bulletin)
Special Focus: Impeding Assistance: Challenges to Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of Palestinians | May 2010
Annual Review: Fragmented Lives - Humanitarian Overview 2012, Humanitarian Space section
Annual Review: Fragmented Lives - Humanitarian Overview 2011, Humanitarian Space section


OCHA Thematic Page on Humanitarian Access
UN Access Coordination Unit for the oPt


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