Meaning and component of Right to development from the Palestinian perspective


مفهوم و محتوي الحق في التنمية من المنظور الفلسطيني

د.عبدالحميد عفانة

The right to development (RtD) has been part of global debate on human rights for more than fifty years; however, it has not yet entered the practical jurisdiction of development planning and implementation. States tend to express their verbal support for this right but give less emphasis its basic developmental practical principles.

As highlighted in the UN constitutions, Right to development was described as a framework that integrates human rights principles into a process of development defining development as a comprehensive social, economic, cultural, and political process that aims at improving well-being of the entire population and call for self determination and liberation. Community involvement in all aspects related to their lives, community empowerment and individual development, social justice and equity to reduce poverty and needs assessment to accurate targeting based on specific data and approaches to development are all requirements for right to development.

What one would understand from the literature about RtD is that defining development as human rights includes new considerations of developmental process in various aspects from financial allocations and distributions to priorities of international development cooperation. It has moved development from a context of charity and humanitarian aid to the context of rights/responsibilities and cooperation at both individual and collective levels.

To achieve these requirements, some practical implications need to be considered such as the “rights holders” and “duty bears” have to be explicitly defined, all initiatives have to coordinated with different stakeholders, identify obligations at the individual rights of people and policies have consider the economic situation of people where special consideration to vulnerable groups, women and marginalized groups.

Despite of the global adoption to the RtD, there are still lack of consensus on legal interpretation and meaning of the concept; the developed countries acknowledge right to development as an individual rights, where state is the primary responsible for the application and realizing the right to development, while low-income countries claim the collective rights of people (states) who suffered for many years of canonization and exploitation of their resources have the collective rights to development.


This research is the first unique pilot qualitative study in Palestine that aims at exploring the components and meaning of right to development from the Palestinian perspective. In addition the study tries to shed a light on what constitutes this concept, review current understanding of right to development, and how right to development is interpreted and its potential application under the Israeli occupation.

Therefore, the purpose of this pilot and unique study is to explore the component and social meanings of RtD, ways in which is defined (i.e., meanings assigned to RtD) and its practical application among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Examining potential meaning and understanding of RtD may have implications for its definitions as well as for the design and delivery of practical approaches and community interventions.

Palestinians have experienced decades of protracted conflict, oppression, multiple, repetitive and continuous traumatic experiences, social exclusion and related socioeconomic and political problems. Occupation, social and economic control, and general restricted movements resulted in feelings of frustration, hopelessness and a long period of victimization and dramatization that led to the outbreak of the first Intifada  -Palestinian Uprising against the Israeli Occupation- in December 1987, followed by the Oslo agreement that was signed at the political level, albeit fragile, step towards a solution to the long-standing confrontation between the Israelis and Palestinians. The agreement was signed without community involvement and translating these agreements into tangible results was slow, and the outcome was mixed and disappointing for the general Palestinian population. Therefore the agreement remains at the political level and was not able to trickle down to the community.

The only time in history that Palestinians participated in their political elections was in 2006 when Hamas was elected to from the government. When Hamas was elected at the begging in March 2006, the Palestinian’s health, economic and social situation deteriorates dramatically because of the strict closure imposed by the Israeli Government and most international donors did not transfer their financial donations to the Palestinian Authority. That led to financial and economic crisis that was obvious among health and other civil services.

Through all these years, Palestinians were not able to practice their either civil or developmental rights as reported by the International convictions of human rights, and local human rights organizations were not able to illustrate and expand human rights concepts in the Palestinian community, because they were not able to transform the “western” definitions and meaning of human rights into a meaningful culturally and socially acceptable language and terminology. They were not able to build bridges between the western understanding, definitions and application of human right and Palestinian social, cultural and political understanding, definition and applications of human rights. Although hundreds of public meeting were conducted by local human rights organizations, they literary translated these rights into Arabic without deep analyses of the cultural and social representations of these rights, particularly the right based approach to development.

The ultimate goal of the study is to understand the concept of RtD from the Palestinian perspective and know the component of this concept from the perspective of those who apply that concept such as lawyers, human rights activities and those who are involved in community development. The study aimed at exploring possibilities of starting the process of RtD under the Israeli occupation.

Research methodology

Because the RtD have recently been introduced to the Palestinian community,  it was not easy to design open-ended research questions for the key informants interviews, the researcher conducted three focus group discussion with lawyers, community leaders and academics. Each group composed of 9 people, gender balanced.

This is a qualitative exploratory study employing ethnographic interviews with key informants (Eyler et al., 1999). As defined by M. Tremblay (1957), the term key informant is used primar- ily for a person who is in a position to know the social, political, and cultural patterns of his or her community as a whole or a particular portion of it.

Recruitment of key informants was done with purposive sampling among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip; informants were selected because they were educated and articulate, were recognized by others as having knowledge of RtD and ways of application as well as their knowledge of the local social and cultural context, and were willing to reflect on the issue of RtD in the Palestinian context in the Gaza Strip. Participation was entirely voluntary; no incentives were given to participants. A total of twenty (20) potential key informants were contacted and screened based on their ability to share their knowledge; four informants declined to participate indicating that they did not have time and enough knowledge in the field of enquiry. The final sample consisted of 16 informants between 35 and 60 years of age (5 women and 9 men). All those interviewed were Muslims and university graduates, including lawyers, human rights activists, experts in economic development, women’s group and academics.

The interview used a semi-structured questionnaire composed of open-ended questions. Informants were asked to describe understanding of the RtD, ways of application, legal implications and applications, and current application of RtD in the Gaza Strip. Examples of open-ended questions were the following: “what do you know about the RtD?. Do Palestinian law and policy adequately address the RtD?.  Is there awareness of and willingness to tackle the RtD at national level and is action being taken?. Participants were then asked to reflect on their responses with follow-up questions, including the following: How RtD could be implemented? What should be done to protect the RtD?  “Is RtD to development applicable under Israeli occupation? If so, how?”. “how local and international organizations apply RtD in the Gaza Strip?”

Informants indicated their preference of time and venue for the interview. Interviews took place in different locations in the Gaza Strip, including the participants’ offices and or working places. The average time for each interview was 90 minutes. The interviews were conducted over a period of 2 months (August and September), 2012. The interviews were carried out in Arabic. All interviews were audio-recorded with the consent of the informants, who were guaranteed anonymity. The interviews were later transcribed by two research assistants who were trained on research methodology. Names of persons, places of interviews, and other identifying details have been altered in this article to protect the informants’ identity and for confidentiality of the information.

Data Analysis

Focus groups and Interviews are analyzed using thematic analysis. Data analysis used aiming at understanding the structure that guides the discourse of each participant individually and as a group to identify sociocultural constitution of RtD.

The content of narratives will be examined and similarities across the groups of participants indicate the existence of structural principles guiding their social representations and meaning of traumatic experiences.

Ethical issues

The study was done in cooperation with three local Palestinian non-organizations located in the Sothern part of the Gaza Strip following their internal rules, regulations, prevailing cultural norms, and implicit professional standards of practice. The study was partially funded by these organizations who received support from the UNDP in order to carry such a study. Concerns of participants regarding privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality were discussed and respected before conducting the interviews. The recording of interviews was done with explicit verbal permission and mutually agreed terms of understanding that the research results would be disseminated preserving the anonymity and confidentiality of the information. The participants’ verbal consent for the study was tape-recorded.

The research was carried out for scientific purposes aiming at benefiting peoples’ well-being and improving service delivery to the entire community. Participant identities are kept confidential; electronic data and the tapes are stored on a secure server, password protected and encrypted. All data files will be destroyed after one year.

Knowledge dissemination

The research findings will be presented to the community in Arabic language through a small booklet distributed to various local organizations, series of workshops, mass media and local newspapers. It is also expected that the Network is going to organize a conference in the southern part of the Gaza Strip were the research findings will be presented in both languages; Arabic and English. A summary of the research will be available in English language.

Summary of the findings

  1. 1.    The concept of RtD

The interviews indicated that all participants heard about RtD as one of United Nations constitutions, however, their explanation and interpretation of the concept was varied. Around 43% of participants interpret RtD from the humanitarian aid projects, while the rest looked at RtD from the wider comprehensive perspective. The study also did not show any differences in legal interpretation and understanding of the concept between the lawyers and others. In contrary, human rights activists understanding of the legal perspectives and interpretations of legal aspect of RtD were much advanced than lawyers and academics

The study also showed that (19%) of the participants connected RtD with the personal intellectual achievements and social capabilities to deal with others and understand their social and political roles.  Therefore, RtD has start with individuals, as they are the backbone for the developmental process.

Around 37% of participants connected the individual rights with collective one and the right of Palestinian people for liberation and self-determination, which will enable Palestinians to control their natural resources.

The interviews showed that Palestinians used different local expression that socially and politically rooted such tanmyyah min ajl al-sumud (“development to enable people’s resistance). While 43% associate RtD with relief and humanitarian projects that some local and international organizations implement such as training and distribution of food baskets.

  1. 2.    RtD from the legal perspectives

The research showed that legal perspective RtD was never discussed at any level including professional, political or and legislative level. In addition, there is no clear description of RtD in the Palestinian legislative system.

The study also showed that lawyers were not able to associate the RtD with legal perspective and they were not familiar with legal bases and framework for concept. Also, lawyers were not able to identify their explicit role in developing and enhancing RtD in the Palestinian community, at both the legal and community levels.

More than 80% of participants pointed-out that RtD are mentioned in the Palestinian laws under right to health, right to education, right to employment etc are described in the revised Palestinian constitutions.

  1. 3.    People involvements in decision related to their lives

All study participants agreed that people involvement in decision-making is the heart of any developmental process. Participants indicated that in order to enhance people’s involvement, a democratic and transparent system has to be initiated. This system would allow people to participate not only and the political level i.e. elections, it also permits people and community institutions to contribute to social changes through their involvements in economic, social, cultural, educational and health decisions related to their lives.

The study showed that lawyers and academics are less able to analyze and explicitly explain the association between the importance of people’s involvements in decision-making process and RtD compared with human rights activists, economic experts and women activists. Academics and lawyers were not able to define clear mechanisms for people’s involvement in health, social, economic and educational development.

  1. 4.    Right holders and duty bearers

All Participants in the study specified that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is the primary “duty bearer” of the RtD and its sole responsibility to prevent, protect, promote and fulfill the rights of Palestinian people. They also indicated the PA is responsible to promote the democratic climate to enable people to participate in the developmental process without any discrimination related to gender or political affiliation. The PA have to make RtD real by insuring and implementing clear mechanisms of individual participation and provide the structure that promotes development and remove all obstacles that undermine development through democratic participatory mechanisms in political and economic levels

The participant also stressed the importance of recruiting people based on their qualifications, experiences and skills and placing the suitable person into the suitable place.

Although the declaration have emphasized that RTD is an individual right, a collective right and a right of solidarity, which poses a necessary relation between the realization of this right at the individual and at the collective level, only 25% of participants (some economic experts, some human right activists and some women activists) were able to recognize that right can also be raised by an entire Palestinian people – which means by PA. Therefore, the PA as “right holder” on behalf of Palestinian people have the right to claim against “duty bearer” represented by Israeli occupation and Western countries that have caused the Palestinian plight.

  1. 5.    RtD under occupation

In consensuses, all participants indicated that RtD under occupation is almost unmanageable where Palestinian have no control over their natural resources, borders, trade, fishing water resources and confiscation of their land. However, around 80% of the participants indicted that the presence of occupation must not forbid them for stating the process of development. They have indicated that process should start with a plan of improving and developing the available human resources and encourage highly qualified and experienced Palestinians living abroad to contribute in community and social development.

The participants also indicated that favoritism, loyalism and hiring people according to their political affiliation, which has nothing to do with Israeli occupation, are major obstacles to real implementation of RtD and contribute to Palestinian “brain drain”.

  1. 6.    RtD and the role of NGOs in the Gaza Strip

Around 70% of participants indicated that the majority of local NGOs in the Gaza Strip have not been able to the play a significant role in developmental process because they focus on service delivery rather than development. Also, local NGOs are more involved on national issues and occupation giving less emphasis to civil and individual rights.

More than 80% of the study sample stated that the role most local NGOs in the Gaza strip have been reduced to humanitarian and relief services. They also stated that international NGOs started to deliver these services (humanitarian and relief services) on the ground by opening their own offices, employing local professionals and competing with local organization with lowest level of coordination and collaboration with local organizations. One of the participant said “role of local NGOs has been raped by the international ones”

More than 70% of the sample indicated that millions of US Dollars particularly after the fight between Fatah and Hamas (the two main political factions) were spent on humanitarian and relief services instead of focusing on developmental activities, which has been perceived as if these organization are encouraging relief work and not development.

  1. 7.    RtD and the role of women

Although the majority of the participant stated that the role of women in the developmental process has been marginalized, more 40% of the sample was not able to identify effective mechanisms for involving women in the developmental process. The main focus was on ways and mechanisms of involving women in the political process.

Women activities have indicated that women involvement in decision-making process did not reach 13%, which very low compared with men representation in the Palestinian decision making positions.


The right to development (RTD) has been part of the Palestinian debate on human rights only recently and has not yet entered the practical realm of development planning and implementation. Officials, local and international NGOs operating the Gaza Strip, tend to express verbal support for this right giving less emphasis its basic precepts in development practice. It is apparent that the reference to the RTD in Palestinian laws and constitutions, however, has little impact on national development policy and practice.

It is obvious that the central obstacle to the realization of the RTD is a predominantly political one, which is the Israeli occupation and the stalemate of peace process are the major obstacles toward implementation of real RtD process. However, some other principal problems are also related to the lack of conceptual clarity of RtD. The two major obstacles in this respect are the weakness of understanding of RtD among lawyers, academics and community developmental institutions. The second major deficiency is almost the total lack of experimental knowledge on the matter.

Other challenges disclosed by this research study include the inability of the local and international NGOs to use RtD as collective rights for liberation and self-determination; RtD is a holistic human right of a particular nature, where its planning, implementation and sustainability depends on the behavior of all relevant actors. It requires hard work, creative thinking, good faith and political commitment. It requires in particular a more active role by academics and nongovernmental organizations, private sector, legal and policy makers’ circles to shape a viable and constructive road map for the RTD.

It is the responsibility of the international community, as “duty bearer” to take RtD seriously to help Palestinian people shift the discourse away from affectation towards special programs and mechanisms that will assist PA as the “right holder” in meeting its obligations in this area. The future of the RTD will depend on the extent to which PA, international community and international NGOs are willing to address the political and practical obstacles to its implementation

خلفية البحث:“الحق في التنمية” من المفاهيم التي بدأ تداولها حديثا في المجتمع الفلسطيني ليس فقط علي مستوي المهتمين في التنمية الاقتصادية  بل علي مستوي نشطاء حقوق الانسان و المحامين و الاكاديميين و الصحافيين و المؤسسات الأهلية الغير حكومية و المؤسسات الخدماتية و التعليمية ، وقد تم  إستخدام هذا المفهوم في عدة مجالات مثل تنمية القوي البشرية و المشاريع الانتاجية الصغيرة وفي تقديم الخدمات الاغاثية والانسانية ، و أن ارتبط هذا المفهوم بحق الشعوب في تقرير مصريها واستغلال مواردها وكذلك وسعت مفهوم الحقوق من الحق الفردي إلى الحق الجماعي في  المسارالقانوني و الاقتصادي و الاجتماعي المناسب و تمسك الشعوب في تقرير المصير.

الهدف من البحث: قد جاءت فكرة و هدف هذا البحث النوعي و الأول في فلسطين لكي يسلط الضوء على مفهوم و مكونات الحق في التنمية والمصطلحات المرادفة لهذا المفهوم وكيفية ممارسته في المجتمع الفلسطيني في قطاع غزة ، و إمكانية البدء في عملية التنمية في ظل الاحتلال الإسرئيلي.

منهجية البحث:اعتمدت الدارسة  المنهج الكيفي Qualitative study   الاستكشافي من خلال مقابلات إثنوغرافية مع أشخاص بارزين ومعروفين في المجتمع  (key informants)  ذو درايه و معرفه في مجال “الحق في التنمية” والتنمية المجتمعية وعندهم العلم والخبرة والمقدرة على مشاركة هذه الخبرات والمعلومات مع الاخرين وكذلك على علم بالوضع السياسي والاقتصادي والقانوني.

تم مقابلة ستة عشرة  شخصا من مخلتف الفئات و بدون اي تفرقه للجنس بإستخدام المقابلة الشبه منتظمة  semi-structured interview  التي تتكون من أسئلة مفتوحة لها علاقة بمفهوم الحق في التنمية من الناحية القانونية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية، ومدى وجود تشريعات وقوانين واضحة في التشريعات القانونية الفلسطينية ذات  العلاقة بالحق في التنمية.

نتائج البحث:  من أهم النتائج التي خرج بها البحث ان مفهوم التنمية من الواقع الفلسطيني واسع و فضفاض و يتم استخدامة في مختلف المواقع الإغاثية منها و التنموية و لم يوجد سواء على المستوي السياسي او الأهلي او الدولي خطاب سياسي واضح ينادي للحق في التنمية من المنظور الشامل في فلسطين ، كذلك أبرزت الدراسة مفهوماً مرادفاً يستخدمه الشعب الفلسطيني و نادت به العديد من المؤسسات الرسمية و الأهلية ألا و هو”التنمية من أجل الصمود” من خلال تعزيز صمود الإنسان الفلسطيني على أرضه وتوفير البيئة المناسبة التي تسمح بتوفير العيش الكريم وتوفير فرص العمل وإحترام حقوقه السياسية والمدنيه بما يسمح للإنسان الفلسطيني بالمساهمة في عملية النتمية والتطوير المجتمعي ، إلا أن هذا المصطلح لم يوضع في قالب تنموي شامل و خطة واضحة عليها إجماع وطني و متفق عليها من جمبع القوي الرسمية و الأهلية.

كما و أوضحت الدراسة ان الحق في التنمية كمفهوم شامل و واسع لم يناقش من الناحية القانونيه لا على المستوى المهني و لا السياسي و لا القانوني ولا يوجد نص واضح وصريح في التشريعات الفلسطينية حول الحق في التنمية من المنظور القانوني الفلسطيني. إن فئة المحامين و المحاميات لم يستطيعوا أن يربطوا بين العلاقة بين القانون و التنمية من الوجهه القانونية  و لم يستطيعوا  أيضا أن يعرفوا الأسس القانونية التي بنى عليها هذا المفهوم و لا دورهم كمحامون في تفعيل إستخدام هذا المفهوم لصالح الشعب الفاسطيني.

أوضحت الدراسة أيضا إن الحق في التنمية يأتي ضمن القوانين الأخرى مثل الحق في التعليم ، الحق في  العمل و الحق في السكن ، علما بأن الكثير من القوانين والشرائع الفلسطينية لا زالت تستند إلى قوانين الاحتلال الإسرائيلي والقوانين البريطانية والأردنية وقليل من القوانين الفلسطينية التي صدرت في عهد السلطة الفلسطينية ، و على الرغم من التأكيد علي أهمية مشاركة أفراد الشعب في آليات اتخاذ القرار كــركيزه هامة في عملية التنمية إلا ان فئة المحامين و الأكاديميين القانونيين أقل مقدرة على فهم و تحليل و توضيح مدي اهمية مشاركة الناس في آليات صنع القرار وعلاقة التنمية بآليات صنع القرار و بالتنمية و خفض نسبة البطالة مقارنةً بناشطِي  حقوق الإنسان و الناشطات في شئون المرأة و الخبراء الإقتصاديون الذين استهدفتهم الدراسة.

ومن الناحية القانونية أيضا أبرزت الدراسة انه على المستوى القومي للحق في التنمية أن الفرد هو صاحب الحق و ان حامل المسؤلية عن الحماية للحقوق و واجب احترام هذه الحقوق و واجب تعزيز هذه الحقوق  هي السلطة أو الدول من خلال تأمين وتنفيذ آليات واضحة للمشاركة الفردية وتوفير البيئة المناسبة التي تساهم في تعزيز التنمية وإزالة العقبات التي تعوق عملية التنمية من خلال وضع آليات ديمقراطية مبنية عل أساس مشاركة الفرد على جميع المستويات السياسية والاقتصادية. أنه من حق السلطة كصاحب للحق نيابة عن الافراد (الشعب) مطالبة الاحتلال و المجتمع الدولي ومؤسساته الاقتصادية أو السياسية أو الاجتماعية كحامل للمسؤلية  بتحمل المسؤلية القانونية عن تخليف الشعب الفلسطيني و عن عدم تسهيل و تنفيذ قرارات الامم المتحدة و صمتها عما يقوم به الاحتلال و عدم جدية المجتمع الدولي في انهاء الاحتلال لأنه العقبة الأهم في وجه تنمية حقيقية ومن ثم وضع خطط تنموية شاملة ومستدامة بالشراكة مع جميع فئات الشعب والمجتمع المدني ووضع الجميع أمام مسؤولياته السياسية والقانونية والأخلاقية حتى يستطيع الشعب الفلسطيني أن يتعامل مع مفهوم الحق في التنمية.

كما وكشفت الدراسة عن إجماع  جميع فئات العينة على أهمية مشاركة الناس في اتخاذ القرار إلا ان فئة المحامين و الاكاديميين كانت اقل قدرة على تحليل هذه الأهمية و رسم آليات لكيفية المشاركة الفاعلة للناس ، وكذلك أجمع المشاركيين في البحث بأن التنمية تحت الاحتلال شبه مستحيلة إلا ان غالبيتهم أفادوا بأن و جود الاحتلال لا يمنع من البدء في هذه العملية بالموارد المتاحة مثل الاستفادة من القوى البشرية الموجودة ، و وضع قوانين و شرائع ملزمة للإستفادة من الخبرات الموجود و استقطاب آخرين من الخارج و التخلص من الواسطة و المحسوبية ووضع الشخص المناسب في المكان االمناسب.

كشفت الدراسة عن عدم الإرتقاء  بالدور الحقيقي للمرأة للمشاركة الفاعلة ليس في تنفيذ القرارات الصادرة عن السلطة الوطنية بل المشاركة في إعداد وإقرار ومراقبة وتقييم هذه القرارات وإعطاء المرأة الفلسطينية التمثيل المناسب في المؤسسات والهيئات التابعة للسلطة سواء التشريعية أو الاقتصادية والتنفيذية بها.

 أوضحت الدراسة أن الغالبية العظمي من المشاركين يروا أن المؤسسات الغير حكومية لم تلعب الدور المطلوب منها في عملية التنمية وركزت على الجانب الخدماتي على حساب البعد التنموي وركزت على البعد الوطني ومقاومة الاحتلال على حساب الحريات المدنية و الفردية. وبدأ الخطاب العام سواء كان على المستوى السياسي أو الدولي أو على مستوى  المؤسسات الدولية الكبرى  في قطاع غزة بالتوجه ناحية تنظيم حملات المناصرة للبعد الإنساني والإغاثي للشعب الفلسطيني بدلاً من الخطاب التنموي.

 الخلاصة: الحق في التنمية الشاملة مفهوم جديد في المجتمع الفلسطيني لم يتم مناقشته و إستغلاله بالشكل الأمثل على جميع المستويات السياسية و التعليمية و الإجتماعية و القانونية ، و يجب وضع  خطة تنموية محددة من الدولة أو السلطة الحاكمة  ومن مؤسسات المجتمع المدني و الأطر المهنية و النسوية  و من القطاع الخاص ، بالتالي تأتي في قدرة هذه القطاعات  على تنفيذ التوجهات التنموية الوطنية المتفق عليها والتي  يجب أن تساهم في الحد من البطالة و تخفيف الفقر و دمج الخريجين في سوق العمل و بتمكين النساء و توسيع هامش مشاركتهن في صناعة القرارات السياسية و الإجتماعية و الإقتصادية و التربوية و الاستفادة من المصادر و الموارد و الوظائف بشكل عادل.