Palestinian-Israeli Private Sector Dialogue, through the Establishment of a Palestinian Shippers' Council

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Palestinian-Israeli Private Sector Dialogue, through the Establishment of a Palestinian Shippers' Council

Israel
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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The main objectives of the initiative are encouraging Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and strengthening Palestinian capacities. Recognizing that dialogue and cooperative initiatives are required in order to nurture peaceful relations in this region, and acknowledging that the Palestinian business sector can play a pivotal role in leading cooperation with parallel Israeli sectors, this initiative seeks to encourage interaction between the Palestinian and Israeli private sectors, who have the potential to serve as anchors of dialogue in their respective communities. In this vein, the Peres Center has assisted the establishment of the Palestinian Shippers' Council (PSC) which provides services and represents and protects the interests of Palestinian importers and exporters that utilize maritime shipping, air freight or land transport. The establishment of the PSC contributes to managing conflict as it diffuses disparities between the Israeli and Palestinian business communities. The model also encourages cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian organizations, authorities and individuals, thereby promoting peaceful relations and strengthening the moderate voices. It demonstrates a win-win approach led by civil society, and can serve as a model for Palestinian- Israeli cooperation in many other fields. The Peres Center has been involved in multiple activities related to the initiative including identifying the problem, finding partners, organizing meetings with parallel Israeli trade authorities, ports, the Israeli Shippers Council and others, assisting in solicitation of funds, running training programs to assist members of the PSC to operate more effectively, and more. The primary direct beneficiaries and target groups of this project are Palestinian importers and exporters (individual and corporate), small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and commercial transport and shipping users. The indirect beneficiaries include the entire Palestinian trading community.

About You
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Your idea
Focus of activity

Dialogue Processes

Start Year

The process commenced in 2004, and the organization was officially established in 2006.

Positioning in the mosaic of solutions
Main barrier addressed

Corrupt or inept government and public systems

Main principle addressed

Humanize the other

This field has not been completed. (333 words or less)

Innovation
Description of initiative:

The main objectives of the initiative are encouraging Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and strengthening Palestinian capacities. Recognizing that dialogue and cooperative initiatives are required in order to nurture peaceful relations in this region, and acknowledging that the Palestinian business sector can play a pivotal role in leading cooperation with parallel Israeli sectors, this initiative seeks to encourage interaction between the Palestinian and Israeli private sectors, who have the potential to serve as anchors of dialogue in their respective communities. In this vein, the Peres Center has assisted the establishment of the Palestinian Shippers' Council (PSC) which provides services and represents and protects the interests of Palestinian importers and exporters that utilize maritime shipping, air freight or land transport. The establishment of the PSC contributes to managing conflict as it diffuses disparities between the Israeli and Palestinian business communities. The model also encourages cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian organizations, authorities and individuals, thereby promoting peaceful relations and strengthening the moderate voices. It demonstrates a win-win approach led by civil society, and can serve as a model for Palestinian- Israeli cooperation in many other fields. The Peres Center has been involved in multiple activities related to the initiative including identifying the problem, finding partners, organizing meetings with parallel Israeli trade authorities, ports, the Israeli Shippers Council and others, assisting in solicitation of funds, running training programs to assist members of the PSC to operate more effectively, and more. The primary direct beneficiaries and target groups of this project are Palestinian importers and exporters (individual and corporate), small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and commercial transport and shipping users. The indirect beneficiaries include the entire Palestinian trading community.

Description of innovation:

The Peres Center's approach differs from other existing programs as it is rare to see an Israeli organization assisting in the establishment of a Palestinian organization, for the benefit of the Palestinian community (in this case, the Palestinian private sector). In addition, even now, following the establishment of the PSC, the Peres Center continues its close cooperation with the PSC, jointly conducting seminars for Palestinian businesspeople on import/export issues, and setting up meetings between the professional staff of the PSC and the relevant Israeli authorities and officials to discuss obstacles to trade. The roles and services of the PSC are similar to shippers' councils in other countries, however a unique circumstance exists whereby the Palestinian economy is included in the Israeli "customs envelope". The Palestinian Authority and Israel have a quasi-customs union, which has been outlined in the "Paris Protocol" (1994). Under this agreement, all Palestinian import and export activity goes through the Israeli customs system, which is problematic, as the majority of Palestinian businesspeople do not have access to Israeli customs and logistical services. These circumstances damage the ability of Palestinian companies to compete with international firms, and decrease their chances of being integrated into the global economy. The approach used by the Peres Center, that of utilizing Palestinian-Israeli cooperation to strengthen the Palestinian private sector, is particularly novel, as in most cases, the shippers' council is established with government support or at least, through cooperation with the government or official endorsement. In this case, the shippers' council has been established entirely through civil society cooperation, that is, without any assistance from the Palestinian (or Israeli) government. This unique predicament has enabled the establishment of the PSC despite the uncompetitive economic environment.

Delivery model:

The services of the PSC reach the target population via a website launched through this initiative. The website provides important information for Palestinian importers and exporters in Arabic, and serves as their only port of call for such information. Furthermore, it offers downloads of all the relevant forms for working with Israeli ports, in Arabic. Previously, Palestinian traders did not have access to information about the Israeli ports (which they use on a daily basis), as it is only published in Israel and was never translated for the use of Palestinian clients. The services are also available to Palestinian importers and exporters who become members of the PSC. These members enjoy all of the services and assistance that the PSC can offer. In addition, the Peres Center and the PSC jointly deliver "Chain of Supply" seminars, providing Palestinian businesspeople (from West Bank and the Gaza Strip) with vital information that strengthens their business capacities. The seminars include professional training lectures on topics such as customs processes, import and export procedures, costs calculation, standards checks, custom agents, international shipping, and more, given by Israeli experts, in cooperation with the Israeli Export & International Cooperation Institute. Some time is devoted to individual case reviews, assisting the participants in resolving their problems and learning lessons for the future. Furthermore, the seminars include an educational tour to a prominent Israeli trade site or facility utilized by Palestinian businesspeople, helping the participants to gain knowledge, experience and expertise by becoming acquainted with different production or logistical processes. Importantly, such tours encourage meetings between Palestinian private sector representatives and relevant Israeli authorities or organizations, who run the factories and facilities, in which obstacles to trade and better relations can be discussed.

Key operational partnerships:

The Peres Center for Peace created the basic and fundamental partnership between the initial Palestinian team, who wanted to establish the PSC, and the European Commission Technical Assistance Office (ECTAO) for the West Bank and Gaza. Today, the ECTAO funds the project, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) assists in implementing the initiative and provides technical support to the project, which operates in the Palestinian territories under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The Palestine Trade Center (PalTrade) is providing local outreach and logistical support for the PSC during its start-up period. Through the various meetings that the Peres Center has set up for the PSC, the organization has met with Israeli authorities, private sector organizations and individuals. These partnerships are key to allowing the PSC to deliver its services to its Palestinian members, and in parallel, encourage stronger Palestinian-Israeli relations. These partnerships are very significant as they ensure that the PSC can meet its objectives of providing services to the Palestinian community, as well as in encouraging cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli private sectors.

Impact
Financial model:

The services can be accessed by all via the website of the PSC.

Costs as percentage of income:

N/R

Financing:

The initial stages of the program (identifying the need, identifying partners, meeting with Israeli authorities and organizations) did not require funding. The formal establishment phase required funding, which was secured from international partners (EU, UNCTAD). The initiative is sustainable in that members of the PSC will pay membership fees to utilize the services of the PSC, thereby creating long term support for the organization.

Effectiveness:

<ul><li class="entry-label">Project outcomes: <span class="entry-text">The outcome of the program is a stable and viable organization that assists Palestinian businesspeople through interaction and cooperation with Israeli authorities and organizations. While this sounds simple, cooperation with Israeli authorities and bodies is no simple feat. For the first time, Palestinian businesspeople have access to important information and forms in Arabic, allowing them to expand their operations, despite the circumstances created by the conflict. The dialogue between Palestinian businesspeople and Israeli bodies nurtured through this initiative has already helped to prompt changes in policies for Palestinians at Israeli trade sites. Such dialogue has been instrumental in overcoming various obstacles, and encouraging greater understanding between the two sides. </span></li><li class="entry-label">Number of clients in past year: <span class="entry-text">So far, since the PSC's launch in 2006, the PSC has welcomed more than 200 Palestinian companies as members, who receive direct assistance from the staff of the PSC on different issues related to their trade and import/export procedures. In addition, 60 Palestinian businesspeople participated in the "Chain of Supply" seminars during 2006, and funds are currently sought to continue the workshops during 2007. Moreover, many more Palestinian businesspeople have benefited from the services offered by the website of the PSC, including the forms in Arabic and the notices regarding changes and procedures at Israeli trade sites (which are used by Palestinians). </span></li></ul>

Scaling up strategy:
Stage of the initiative:

<i>Scaling Up</i> stage.

Expansion plan:

The expansion plans for the next few years include strengthening the organization, and encouraging further interaction with Israeli authorities and organizations. Specifically, there are many bottlenecks and obstacles to Palestinian traders using Israeli facilities, despite the fact that these are the designated facilities for Palestinians to use. Hence, future plans include meetings with various Israeli authorities and organizations, with a view to expanding Palestinian-Israeli cooperation for the mutual benefit of all. The expansion plans also seek to make the organization more sustainable, so that it can be an ongoing tool for the improvement of Palestinian- Israeli relations in the private sector. This can be achieved through recruiting more members to the PSC, and raising the profile of the PSC.

Origin of the initiative:

Following a series of meetings for Palestinian and Israeli businesspeople in 2004, and meetings for the shipping, forwarding and trading field, many obstacles to encouraging Palestinian-Israeli trade and interaction were identified. Some of these were solved immediately, through intervention by the Peres Center, however the fundamental problem still remained: the lack of an PSC. The Peres Center started to work with Palestinian individuals and entities to build up the PSC through cooperation with Israeli authorities and organizations, and through capacity-building activities. The establishment of the PSC is important as it helps to address the inequalities between the two economies, and in parallel, allows for interaction between the Palestinian and Israeli business communities, these being the moderate voices, and the engines for prosperous and stable societies and economies.