During a public session in Ramallah mid-May, five municipalities committed themselves to a wholly new way of learning and doing Local Economic Development. The municipalities, Ramallah, el-Bireh, Dura, Qalqilya, and Jericho, embarked on a four-year self-propelled learning programme as part of the VNG International IDEAL programme that should help them rise as the West Bank’s top performing economies.
This atypical learning process has been tried and tested by VNG International and others in various contexts before, but never in Palestine. In those contexts it has been shown that when municipalities are invested and committed to their learning process, giving them an important measure of control over the design of their own development, generates solutions that are better aligned with local demand and opportunities, then when they are merely consuming lessons as students.
The first step for the five participating Palestinian municipalities will be to collaborate on determining their own learning goals and strategies. Next, they will draft project proposals aimed at stimulating meaningful employment opportunities for the entire community, including women and youth who are often left at the side lines of formalized economic life. IDEAL support will facilitate the process and provide them with technical or strategy advice only intensively in the first phase and after that will facilitate a progressive transfer of the ownership of the learning process to the municipalities.
The Minister of Local Government, Dr. Hussein Al-A’araj, who attended the public session, reflected back on the remarkable flight of LED in Palestine, from an unknown concept just a few years ago to a nationally recognized priority currently: “Local Economic Development has recently become a policy committed by the Palestinian government and devoted to the national policy agenda. It has now become part of the economic development system of the State of Palestine. Municipalities have a great role in achieving development in partnership with private sector institution, and with direct supervision from the Ministry of local Government.”