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1. Food Insecurity in Palestine

1.1. The Problem
In the context of analyzing the immediate causes, the term "'food security"' refers to the ability of a community, family or individual to be able to eat sufficiently, in terms of both quantity and quality, as prescribed by international standards of calorie, protein and vitamin intake. Whilst this may seem straightforward enough, the term comprises three inter-related components (availability, access and quality), all of which must be simultaneously achieved.
Food needs to be available in order to be accessed, in the granary, the kitchen, the local store or market. In general, sufficient food (of sufficient quality) does exist in Palestine, year on year, despite the constraints imposed by the current political situation.
Yet, availability alone is not necessarily enough to provide food security, for sufficient access to available food is often denied. This may come about as a result of economic constraints (poverty), and therefore the inability of an individual to purchase the food necessary (if not receiving entitlements through humanitarian aid). In a related way, access may also be denied due to physical constraints, such as the separation barrier, or a checkpoint manned by the Israeli army which may restrict personal movement. As a result, people may be unable to access the resources (land, irrigation water, jobs) whereby they can grow or buy enough food.
Indeed, the symptoms of food insecurity are very much in evidence, at the levels of community, family and individuals. Not only is there an immediate physical and social cost of incipient hunger and malnutrition, but also detrimental long-term economics. An ill-fed population incurs enormous costs in terms of irreversible loss of cognitive function in children, vulnerability to disease and the cost of this to the health service and productive sectors, a discouraged and unemployed youth, and so on. Causality is bidirectional - the food-insecure get sick, and the sick get food-insecure as they have not the energy to work, or look for work, to relieve that food- insecurity. A nation's human health is a strong predictor of the health of its economy. It follows that there is a huge macro-economic cost in the region to taking no action to relieve food insecurity in a sustainable manner - we cannot afford to do nothing.
It is hardly surprising that Palestinians regard the continued occupation, in all its manifestations, as the main cause of their food insecurity. Agricultural and other livelihoods have been progressively eroded and destroyed over the last six years, since the 2nd intifada erupted in September 2000, and for those without paid work or access to expatriate remittances, food security is now seriously compromised.
Thus, food insecurity in Palestine is not primarily an outcome of technical dysfunction. Rather, it is due to socio-economic and political dysfunction. And it is clearly a truism that continuing food insecurity at such a high level in Palestine cannot be in Israel's interests either, from both the security and economic self-interest. Such facts must surely concentrate the political will on both "'sides"' to resolve their long-standing differences, and thereby remove the apex cause of food insecurity.

1.2. The Solution
The international community has tried to assist Palestine, contributing to the access component of food security, through supplementing the efforts of indigenous humanitarian food distribution networks (by the PNA1, political associations or NGOs). However, humanitarian aid in the country is not well-coordinated amongst the various players, and based on imperfect knowledge of who most needs the food. This has resulted in some deserving cases receiving none, whilst other families receive it from more than one source (though even this does not assure that sufficient food is provided for their needs).
The combined humanitarian aid efforts have undoubtedly saved lives, yet they are not sustainable in the medium or long term. Also, there is no "'development"' component to humanitarian aid. At best it is a stop-gap measure, whilst at worst it can create dependency and undermine the will of people to become independent of food aid. The ideal should surely be for humanitarian aid to be phased out, in favor of development initiatives that create wealth, enabling people to buy (access) the food which is available. Indeed, many international agencies are actively involved in funding development projects, which go some way to relieving poverty and providing a food-secure future, through strengthening the country's physical and social assets.

2. National Food Security Strategy (NFSS)

2.1. Purpose of the Strategy

The Strategy is needed for several reasons:
* to provide the framework for a sustainable and coordinated "'solution"' to food insecurity in Palestine, replacing the hitherto ad-hoc approach, promoting synergies and avoiding wasteful duplication, and for components to be outcome-oriented rather than activity-oriented ;
* to serve as the vehicle for implementing the PNA's food security policy, whereby all its citizens would be food-secure;
* to provide a management tool for Government, enabling it to have a clear vision of what and how it intends to prioritize, and to oversee and coordinate the implementation of food security policy, not least through commanding the development agenda rather than merely responding to donor priorities;
* to demonstrate that clear vision to donors, thereby assuring their commitment, so that Strategy implementation is properly resourced;
* to facilitate related multi-sectoral planning and implementation at Governorate and Municipality level, and provide a mandate against which potential projects can be assessed as "'bankable,"', and worthy of funding;
* to encourage a development agenda, with a preventative rather than curative orientation, together with a better-coordinated safety net of food security-related relief efforts.

2.2. Predicted Strategy outcomes
* Strengthened national capability to effectively resource, coordinate, manage and monitor food- security implementation;
* Sustainable institutional mechanisms installed and operative, to facilitate this implementation;
* Social and technical causes of food insecurity progressively removed;
* Citizenry empowered to be less vulnerable to food insecurity, and to remain so;
* Community, household and individual commitment expressed through their own efforts during Strategy implementation, to which value is added through close cooperation with local government, NGOs and the commercial sector;
* A flexible user-friendly Strategy operational, menu- and demand-driven, enabling communities, PNA agencies and donors to buy-in according to interest and comparative advantage;
* Close collaboration, networking and complementarity promoted between stakeholders in PNA (ministries, and agencies such as PWA and PCBS)2, civil society and the private sector;
* All categories of citizens receiving equitable consideration under the Strategy, especially the most disadvantaged, irrespective of political affiliation;
* collective and focused "'action"' over "'rhetoric"' fostered;
* interventions selected by citizens and supported by donors, rather than the converse.

3. Participatory Development of the NFSS

3.1. Ownership
For the Strategy to be useful it has to be implementable, and for that to happen it needs to be owned by the citizenry. For this reason, the formulation of the NFSS needed to be, and was, fully participative.
This was necessarily a time-consuming process, involving facilitation, consultation, building trust and seeking consensus amongst partners who traditionally do not necessarily work closely with one another. The NFSS is indeed a Palestinian Strategy, devised by Palestinians for Palestinians.
During the early stages of Strategy development in 2002, a stakeholder analysis was conducted, resulting in the formation of three Working Groups. These comprised umbrella group representatives from civil societya and the private sector,b and an Inter-Ministerial Working Group (IWG) from the PNA, with representatives at Director-General level or equivalent.3.
The roles of each Working Group in promoting food security were complementary:
* Within civil society, NGOs are seen as a vital link to sensitize the citizenry about its rights and obligations, train its members in the skills necessary to express its needs in "'bankable"' documents, and assist in "'project"' implementation. Strategy implementation at "'grass-roots level"' is foreseen as being led by Community-Based Organizations (CBOs).
* The private sector is seen as providing services at both input and output levels, such as finance for enterprise development, and marketing.
* Thirdly, the PNA's role is to provide an enabling legal and regulatory environment for NFSS implementation activities to flourish.

3.2. Participative workshops
Through the three working groups mentioned above, there was continual discussion on food security issues, mediated by the consultants, and informed by the results of three previous studies4,5,6. These studies helped the participants formulate the most appropriate intervention instruments, and target the most needy and vulnerable in society.
The food security discussion modalities comprised writing and sharing working papers, small group meetings, and four large workshops conducted in Arabic (two each in both West Bank and Gaza, between March and June 20057), chaired by the PNA. There were also meetings that the consultants convened with ministers, deputy ministers and director generals, the chair of a PLC8 Committee and other PLC members, numerous national and international NGOs, and donors. Such discussions enabled a commonality to be engendered, a meeting of minds on the focal points of interest relating to food security, the role that each agency and individual could play, and the benefits that could accrue, individually and nationally.
From the proceedings of the first workshop in Jericho, a First Draft Food Security Strategy in chart form was devised. The proceedings were written in both Arabic and English, circulated to delegates and their amendments incorporated. Through an iterative process, the Final Draft Strategy, emanating from the fourth workshop in Gaza, was offered to the Cabinet, and on August 15th, 2005, the PNA Cabinet endorsed it. In the PNA Gazette notification, the coordination role for NFSS implementation was assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture.

4. Characteristics of the NFSS document
The Strategy document comprises a preamble, together with four charts.9. The preamble summarizes the nature of food insecurity in the country, its causes, extent and context, and close relationship with "poverty.". The charts represent the four strategic objectives agreed at the first workshop in Jericho. These relate to the three components of food security - improving the availability of food, access to food, and quality/use of food - together with a fourth chart addressing institutional aspects of Strategy implementation.
Each chart lists the instruments of intervention that workshop delegates considered had the greatest potential to remove food insecurity. The purpose and expected outcomes of these interventions were recorded, and the level of priority indicated. The interventions listed are focused development initiatives, with the exception of one; namely, better coordination of humanitarian food aid, which comprises the last intervention listed under Improving Access to Food.
Each identified activity in the Strategy charts should be viewed as a "budget line." Some will cost more than others, and funds need to be sought for each on the basis of bankable project documents in a competitive funding environment. Each project document must demonstrate its realism, its high probability of attainment and large positive impact on one or more aspects of food security; also, how the project will be implemented in a given community, with maximum "ownership" and input "in kind" by that community.
Simple and sensitive impact-indicators, and means of monitoring and evaluating any intervention (including food aid instruments), should be identified for any "'project"' proposal; and a convincing needs assessment to underpin each, which would also have to demonstrate cost-effectiveness.
The Strategy is ambitious, but not overly so, for not all its intervention instruments may be implemented, as some may not receive high enough demand-led prioritization by the PNA, and/or be attractive to donors. Yet the provisions of the Strategy need to be wide, including activities that are enabled when the political constraints are mitigated.
The Strategy is compatible with and promotes the four Aims10 and four National Programs11 of the Draft MTDP (2005-07)12 (publ. February 2005), the nutrition strategy (approved by the Ministry of Health, July 2003), and the Job Creation Strategy approved by Cabinet in January 2004. It should also be compliant with PNA's poverty strategy when it is formulated.13 The Strategy needs to target in particular the most- geographically-, socially- and economically- disadvantaged areas/households/individuals, often living at the margin of the market economy. These must therefore be adequately informed of the provisions of the Strategy, such that they demand their needs be met through it, and indeed that mobilized public opinion drives its implementation.

1 PNA: Palestinian National Authority.
2 PWA: Palestinian Water Authority; PCBS: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
a Civil Society Working Group (CSWG): Association of Local Authorities, General Union of Palestinian Charitable Societies, General Union of Palestinian Women, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network, Palestinian NGOs Network
b Private Sector Working Group (PSWG): Palestinian Federation of Industries, Palestinian Food Industries Association, Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Palestinian Businessmen Association, PALTRADE, Palestinian Information Technology Association, Banking Union.
9 Plus annexes listing the participants at all four workshops, and summarizsed proceedings.
10 Link short-term relief to longer-term development needs; enhance PNA leadership of aid management, coordination & oversight; guide donor interventions for national resource mobilization & allocation; build public sector capacity to enhance planning for development (point 3, page 8).
11 Ensure social protection; invest in social, human & physical capital; invest in institutions of good governance; create an environment for private sector growth (point 137, page 48).
12 MTDP: Medium Term Development Plan.
13 Of the Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing poverty, three of the eight directly address food security, so a linkage between the two issues is plausible and cogent.