"Supporting the development of the OPT is now a priority for the Brussels Region"

On Thursday, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region approved a proposal to choose the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a new priority region of Brussels development cooperation, meaning it will be eligible for increased funding.

State Secretary for International Relations and Development Cooperation Pascal Smet approved the proposal following consultation with relevant civil society organisations and following a fact-finding mission last year in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, which serves as the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

"Supporting the development of the OPT is now a priority for the Brussels Region," Smet noted in a statement, adding that he was "able to identify local realities and needs," during the recent visit. "I saw that we have a role to play there."

Brussels regulations stipulate that only priority regions are eligible for funding out of development cooperation initiatives.

Active support

The decision means that, from this year onwards, the government can actively offer support to associations that set up such projects here, for example in the areas of women and youth entrepreneurship, urban agriculture, the development of the service and hospitality sector, as well as waste management.

"I think it is important for the European capital to send a message of solidarity with the Palestinians and choose to assist them in this," Smet concluded. Accordingly, the Governorate of Ramallah and Al-Bireh will become the local partner of the future development cooperation agreement.

Belgian civil society organisations recognised by FPS Foreign Affairs as part of the cooperation can apply for project funding between €50,000 and €125,000. Other non-recognised NPOs are eligible for project funding between €10,000 and €25,000.

Priority regions

Besides the Palestinian territories, Rabat-Salé-Kénitra in Morocco and Kinshasa in Congo are also priority regions for the Brussels Region. The agreements with Paramaribo in Suriname and Chennai in India expire this year.

The announcement followed a warning on Wednesday from Tor Wennesland, a Norwegian diplomat who serves as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. He told the Security Council that 2022 was one of the OPT's deadliest years in recent memory. "The violent trends that dominated the last months of 2022 continue to take a devastating human toll," he said.

During the latest reporting period, from 8 December to 13 January, 14 Palestinians were killed, including a 16-year-old boy caught in an armed exchange during an Israeli arrest operation against suspected terrorists in Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus.

Wennesland cited the long-stalled peace process and pointed to rising political tensions, which have escalated due to ongoing Israeli settlement activities in the OPT, which most of the international community considers illegal, and a recent controversial visit to the Temple Mount (al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf) in Jerusalem's old city — sacred both to Jews and Muslims — by the far-right National Security Minister of the new Israeli Government.

He stressed preventing loss of life must align with the international community's ultimate goal," which he said was "ending the Israeli occupation, resolving the conflict, and realising a lasting two-State solution."



Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli troops following a protest against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the occupied- West Bank, in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near the Jewish settlement of Kedumim, on January 20, 2023.

© jaafar ashtiyeh / AFP

Get updates in your mailbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I confirm I have read and agree to the Privacy Policy.

About belganewsagency.eu

Belga News Agency delivers dependable, rapid and high-quality information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Belgium and abroad to all Belgian media. The information covers all sectors, from politics, economics and finance to social affairs, sports and culture, not to mention entertainment and lifestyle.

Every day, our journalists and press photographers produce hundreds of photos and news stories, dozens of online information items, plus audio and video bulletins, all in both national languages. Since the end of March 2022 English has been added as a language.

For public institutions, businesses and various organisations that need reliable information, Belga News Agency also offers a comprehensive range of corporate services to meet all their communication needs.


Arduinkaai 29 1000 Brussels