Achieving peace in the Middle East by investing in civil society

On Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 June, the S&D group hosted a conference at the European Parliament on the Middle East Peace Process: Past Lessons, Current Challenges and Future Prospects. It aimed to bring together MEPs, officials, and civil society organisations to discuss the role of the EU in contributing to the peace process in the region.

Acknowledging that civil society organisations are key actors for promoting peace, educating and softening the feelings of hatred between the Palestinian and Israeli societies, several speakers called on the EU to provide more support and space to civil society for them to build the bridge for peace, which is welcomed by SOLIDAR. As highlighted by MEP Victor Boștinaru, the best investment for peace is investing in civil society.

This is of crucial important given the increasingly hostile climate towards human rights organisations and frequent infringements of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and association in both Palestine and Israel. The “NGO Transparency Bill” approved by the Israeli Parliament on 27 December 2015 announced more discrimination against NGOs expressing dissenting opinion or campaigning for Palestinian rights, while the Palestinian authority has gained greater power over NGOs with several amendments to laws and presidential decrees.

In the framework of the SOLIDAR-led and European Commission-funded regional project “Decent Work, Social Protection and Freedom of Association in the Middle East and North Africa: Mobilising for Social Justice by strengthening and promoting the role of CSOs, social movements and (independent) trade unions in reforms and democratic change, SOLIDAR has worked in collaboration with ANND and its partners in Palestine, Democracy and Workers’ Rights Centre (DWRC), Palestinian NGO Network Organisation (PNGO) and Stars of Hope with the aim to assess the progress of the implementation of the ENP in Palestine. The 2015 report - available here - showed that serious deficiencies in terms of fundamental freedoms and decent work and social protection are persistent throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories included East Jerusalem.