Everyday tales and stories from the border regions of Europe and beyond, with the aim of explaining why we border-crossers are as obsessed as we are about this subject, why it is important to all of us, and why the co-operation community needs a little bit more visibility than it normally gets.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A missed opportunity in the Middle East

I did promise to blog a bit on non-European cross-border issues, and I'll start with a sad example. Several years back now, Jenin, Gilboa and Beit Shein in northern Israel and the northern West Bank came together and created "Cooperation North", a cross-border venture based on the organisation of the same name in Ireland (now called "Cooperation Ireland - see here: http://www.cooperationireland.org/). There were co-ordinators in place on both sides of the border* (this word is used deliberately, notwithstanding the fact this is not an international border), and there were ambitious plans for waste treatment and industrial collaboration, as well as economic and social actions.

This was an enormously important, political step forward, and there were grounds for real optimism. There was already a relatively high level of interdependence economically. The number of Palestinians crossing the border to work in Israel was huge, and the Israeli participants freely agreed that the Palestinians were a vital part of their economy. Then the second Intifada started, and co-operation became impossible. The border was closed and the economic co-operation dried up. It became extremely difficult for the partners to meet, and almost impossible for the Palestinian partners to get out of the West Bank to meet potential funding organisations.

It seems that the process has ground to a halt. Only fragments remain on the web about this whole exercise - see here for a brief mention http://www.shalomarchav.be/article.php3?id_article=255. Indeed, this article, though 5 years old, appears to offer some small hope, noting the progress of key actors in the original co-operation. However, nothing seems to have happened since.

I have heard that the authorities in charge of the Ireland-Northern Ireland Peace programme are keen to make their experiences known to a wider audience and are planning some events to publicise their success. Perhaps that could provide some catalytic impulse for other regions around the world.

If anyone has any information or views on this topic, comments are more than welcome.

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