MIFTAH CEO Dr. Lily Feidy urged various ministries and government institutions to encourage participation and cooperation with civil society organizations, commending the spirit of cooperation between MIFTAH and the Ministry of Social Development.
Dr. Feidy made her statements during a meeting of the Jerusalem Planning Group, which was held in the Dahiyet Al Barid area, north of the city. The participants discussed a project for technical assistance to develop social protection in Palestine through planning based on partnership and institutional capacity-building.
ďI hope all the ministries have the same spirit of cooperation and participation shown by the Ministry of Social Development,Ē Feidy said, describing the latter as exemplary in the Palestinian case at the level of integration between ministries and civil society institutions. ďFor any country that moves towards development, progress and modern state building, there must be a participatory relationship between the government and civil society institutions, from whose experiences and expertise the government can benefit. This is especially true since civil society had a strong presence in Palestine, even before the PAís inception, and was involved with the issues and concerns of citizens.Ē
Feidy, however, warned against negative competition between the government and civil society institutions over international aid. ďThis competition creates a problem in terms of cooperation between the two sides.Ē In this context, MIFTAHís CEO pointed to the success story between the organization and the Ministry of Social Development. ďCommitment and cooperation will bring us more success stories in 2017,Ē she said. ďAll we need is to provide support for this cooperation to reap its future successes.Ē
She thanked Anwar Hamam, assistant deputy of directorate affairs at the Ministry of Social Development and Daoud Al Dek, assistant deputy for administrative development affairs at the ministry for their valuable cooperation with MIFTAH, maintaining that their expertise and knowledge contributed to facilitating the work of the ďCivil Society Team for Enhancing Public Budget Transparency.Ē
The Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and governor, engineer Adnan Husseini opened the meeting by stressing on the importance of joint action to produce a unified strategy. ďThis important meeting will lay the ground for a relationship of networking and strategy in the service of citizens and in support of their steadfastness,Ē Husseini said.
Minister of Social Development Dr. Ibrahim Shaer noted that the most important and successful social experiences are the ones based on local needs. He said the human component is the most important in realizing development. ďThis is why we changed the name of the ministry from Social Affairs to the Ministry of Social Development. We want a cohesive Palestinian society, which is why we added new articles to our budget in regards to encouraging social initiatives, supporting social protection networks, giving attention to citizens with special needs and networking with everyone without exception in order to unify the channels of assistance for the Palestinians.Ē
Meanwhile, Dr. Nader Saeed, expert and coordinator for the EU-funded planning council project said he considered the biggest achievement from the cooperation between the Ministry of Social Development and MIFTAH to be the citizensí budget, which was developed by using the participatory approach and is aimed at promoting transparency and social accountability. He commended the role of MIFTAH in its achievements and success in this regard and stressed on the importance of strengthening the relationship between the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and civil society institutions in the city.
The highlight of the meeting was the presentation made by Moayyad Afaneh, member of the ďCivil Society Team for Enhancing Public Budget TransparencyĒ about the citizensí and participatory budgets. MIFTAH, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Development implemented a series of activities and events as part of the project ďFinance for Development.Ē This program has been implemented by MIFTAH in partnership with AMAN, Arij and OXFAM over the past two years and is aimed at offering the Ministry of Social Developmentís budget and planning team advanced skills in analyzing the general budget, preparing a citizensí budget and promoting the participatory budget approach.
In the first year of cooperation, 2015, the first success story was achieved, which was the preparation and publication of the Citizensí Budget for 2016 of the Ministry of Social Development. Prior to this, a training workshop was held for the budget and planning team at the Ministry to give them information and expertise pertaining to the general budget and the legal and legislative framework regulating it (No. 7 of 1998). A practical follow-up program of 28 coaching meetings was also carried out at the Ministry to encourage the team to put into practice the acquired knowledge and skills.
In the second year, 2016, a series of practical meetings were held to promote information and special skills for analyzing the general budget and preparing and completing the necessary articles of the 2017 citizensí budget.
A position paper was also prepared and published by the ďCivil Society Team for Enhancing Public Budget TransparencyĒ, under MIFTAHís leadership. The paper aimed at promoting support for the Ministryís budget along with several other recommendations linked to the Ministryís programs. MIFTAH sent the paper to President Abbasí office, the Prime Minister, Finance and Planning Minister and the PLC. The organization is also planning to hold a session with the PLCís budget and social affairs committees to discuss this paper, as well as with the Ministry of Finance.
The position paper included nine recommendations. It called for immediate action to upgrade the Ministry of Social Developmentís budget to meet its needs even though the ministryís allocations do not exceed 6% of the general budget; for the budget to be compatible with the ministryís programs to guarantee its vision, mission and goals, especially the budget allocated for the ministryís programs in 2017. It also recommended the need for the Ministry of Finance and Planning to allocate the social development ministryís budget only to ministry programs thereby separating it from any other programs merged with it, explaining that this merging had misguidedly inflated the social development ministryís budget. It also called for expenditures of ďdischarge compensationsĒ (for 2005 appointments) to be extracted from the social referral item of the ministryís budget in addition to other expenditures unrelated to the ministry. The paper also said this article should never have been included in the development ministryís budget and violates the principle of transparency. Another recommendation was to the Cabinet, on the need for it to launch its portal for monetary and social aid, which needs to be coordinated to prevent duplication and ensure just distribution. It called for coordination between official and private institutions working in the field of aid and for alleviating the burden on the social development ministryís budget, in addition to several other recommendations.