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PCHR Organizes Workshop Titled: “Reality of Public Utilities in the Gaza Strip: Green Zone as An Example”

Ref: 09/2020

On 02 March 2020, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) organized in its Head office in Gaza City a workshop titled: “ The Reality Of Public Utilities In The Gaza Strip: Green Zone As An Example. ” The workshop was attended by specialists representing local councils, the Ministry of Local Government, civil society organizations, and media. The workshop highlighted the local councils’ encroachment of the green zones to be used as private properties.

Fadel al-Muzaini, researcher at PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, opened the workshop by pointing out that the workshop came as part of PCHR’s efforts to follow up community issues and promote the economic, social and cultural rights of Gaza Strip population. Al-Muzaini stressed the importance of having parks and green spaces in cities and their role in creating positive change that would contribute to achieving sustainable development goals, especially in terms of public health and perseverance of nature.

In his presentation: “Green Zones in the Gaza Strip from a Legal Perspective”, Ibrahim al-Sourani, Lawyer at PCHR, reviewed the links between green zones and the right to housing. He also discussed the Palestinian laws and legislations that regulate the allocation of green zones and presented cases of encroachments by local councils in green zones. Al-Sourani highlighted PCHR’s role in protecting the green zones by submitting complaints and cases to the competent authorities.

Engineer Sobhi Skaik, Director of the General Administration for Organization and Planning in the Ministry of Local Government, reviewed the role of the Ministry of Local government in allocating green areas according to the benefit and ownership criteria and according to the deduction percentages that are subjected to Palestinian domestic laws. Skaik indicated that the Ministry of Local Government faces many problems in terms of the allocation of the green areas; most prominently the allocation of spaces in favor of the contsyurction of government housing projects and public buildings in addition to allocation of State Land for Gaza civil servants as a reimbursement of their dues, instead of expanding the green areas. Skaik pointed out that the Ministry servants are only specialists and not decision-makers.

Engineer Ra’ed Lubad, Head of the Eastern Parks Department at the Gaza Municipality, said that green areas are limited in Gaza City due to the outgrowing number of population and public facilities. Lubad added that the Gaza Municipality manages public parks in a time it suffers from inadequate human resources and poor expertise in addition to the decline in funds to the public utilities, including parks and green spaces. He elaborated that this would affect negatively the construction and management of the municipal public parks.

Representing the residents affected by the green zone rental in Qleibo neighborhood, Mr. Yasser Abu Habel reviewed how the area residents were shocked by the Beit Lahia municipal decision to allocate 1,100 square meters located in a green zone a private property despite a public outcry.  Abu Habel added that the area residents resorted to PCHR in order to seek them justice and represent them before the courts to return the area into a green zone again.  However, the municipality withdrew its decision.

The workshop concluded with a broad discussion by the attendees who recommended that the Palestinian government should bear its responsibilities towards protecting the public utilities for the public interest.  They added that the government should also end the allocation of public utilities into private property and end the influential parties’ interference into the process of canceling the allocation of green spaces. They also called for a joint coordination between the competent authorities represented by the Ministry of Local Government, the Land Authority and local councils to allocate and manage the green areas in a way that would achieve the best interests of the Gaza Strip population and in harmony with the sustainable development goals. They also called upon the Palestinian government to allocate budgets for the establishment and development of green areas in the Gaza Strip.