Jerusalem, 20 February 2015 - An integrated approach to planning, across the whole of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), is urgently needed to support the sustainable development of Palestine, an international group of planning experts have said. The experts spent a week looking at the planning of Palestinian communities in the so called Area C, the rural part comprising 60% of the West Bank where Israel still controls day to day decisions about planning and development.

This mission aimed at contributing to the resilience of Palestinians based in Area C of the West Bank, against forced displacement and home demolition policy, a key activity of UN-Habitat oPt, in partnership with Palestinian institutions and Israeli NGOs. “Planning matters for the future of Palestine”, said Professor Cliff Hague, who led the International Advisory Board comprising experienced planners from UK, Germany, Canada, and South Africa and is a former President of the Royal Town Planning Institute and also of the Commonwealth Association of Planners. “My colleagues and I were surprised to find that the current system of planning in Area C still relies on plans produced back in the 1940s under the British Mandate.

Respect for the culture of the people highlighted 

The division between Palestinian administered areas and Israeli controlled Area C of the West Bank is profoundly deleterious to economic growth and development. Planning regulations in Area C need to be made much more transparent, and the rights of Palestinian communities to exist and to expand need to be respected. In particular, there needs to be respect for the culture of the Bedouin and herding people: relocating them to new urban townships is not an appropriate solution.”

The International Advisory Board met with a range of UN and other institutions and NGOs involved in planning and development issues of the West Bank, including the Ministry of Local Government of the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli Civil Administration affiliated to the Israeli Defence Forces. Together with a Local Expert Support Group, the Board reviewed Local Outline Plans prepared for 8 Palestinian communities and visited and spoke with Village leaders and residents in 4 villages spread over Area C of the West Bank. The Board presented its preliminary findings and recommendations in a seminar in Ramallah on 18 February.

A full report will be presented to UN-Habitat oPt by mid-March. Susya, one of the four visited Palestinian communities in the south of Israeli controlled Area C of the West Bank, facing multiple home demolitions, threatened by forced displacement but resilient through legal and planning support from the international community.

Planning matters for the future of Palestine, international experts declare