June 28, 1999, New York City - The Palestinian Authority (PA) must improve its ability to govern democratically and effectively—and do so urgently-or risk losing the support of its people, according to a Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored independent task force.
The independent task force believes that the PA has made significant achievements to date, but recommends that it go much further—in building a more participatory political system and pluralist civil society, as well as developing a free market economy and sustainable growth.
This is the main conclusion of a report presented to Chairman Yasir Arafat by the Task Force on "Strengthening Palestinian Public Institutions" on June 28 in Ramallah (the West Bank).
The independent task force was chaired by Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of France, and includes five former heads of state and other world leaders. A list of task force members is attached. The task force was directed by Council Senior Fellow Henry Siegman, Director of the U.S./Middle East Project, with the assistance of Council Fellow Jonathan Paris.
The Report notes that although "the PA has achieved levels of service delivery, revenue mobilization, financial accountability, and utilization of international assistance that are at least commensurate with, and in some aspects exceed, those in countries of comparable development and income...much remains to be done." Specifically, the PA should adopt a constitution; establish accountability for the executive branch to the legislature; centralize all public revenues and expenditures in the Ministry of Finance; and ensure the independence of the judiciary.
Opinion polls among Palestinians show "dissatisfaction with the level of public services, a perception of waste and corruption in the public administration and police, and a loss of faith in the institutions of governance, particularly the Palestinian Legislative Council and the judiciary."
Confidence in the PA’s institutions affects its contest for legitimacy with radical elements that reject the Oslo accords and claim to do a better job than the PA at delivering certain services to the Palestinian people. This confidence bears on the PA’s ability to negotiate and compromise with Israel and affects Israel’s confidence in the PA’s ability to implement agreements. Good governance is therefore a necessary condition for the success of the peace process.
The independent task force conducted a comprehensive assessment of the public institutions of the PA, their structure and procedures, and their transparency and accountability. Research for the study was done by a team of 25 experts, mostly Palestinian, under the direction of two leading Palestinian scholars, Yezid Sayigh and Khalil Shikaki, and was funded by the European Commission and the government of Norway.
The task force’s recommendations, contained in a 150-page report published by the Council on Foreign Relations, urge the following:
1. Adoption of a formal constitution to set forth the fundamental principles underlying the function, separation, and accountability of the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government.
2. A leaner office of the presidency, transferring routine administrative and operational tasks to other offices, branches, and levels of government.
3. A more effective Legislative Council to exercise enforceable oversight and decision-making authority on broad policy and budgetary issues, and to receive and implement the external audit findings of a General Control Institute established by statute.
4. A more independent judicial system, supervised by an autonomous Supreme Judicial Council, to endorse the rule of law and the sanctity of contracts and a newly integrated, harmonized national legal and regulatory framework suitable to a free society and market.
5. More transparent, accountable, and unified financial operations to improve the cost-effectiveness of public administration and employment and the comprehensiveness of internal and external audits.
6. A leaner public administration with significantly reduced personnel, meritocratic recruitment criteria, and a simpler organizational structure to ease the financial burden and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery.
7. A civilian-controlled police force subject to political, legal, and financial oversight by the Legislative Council as well as appropriate ministries, with its role, rules, and relationship to local government clear to all.
The executive summary of the report is available on the Council’s website at www.foreignrelations.org or by calling the number listed above.
The Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921 and based in New York, is a national nonpartisan membership organization and think tank dedicated to fostering America’s understanding of other nations through study and debate.
INDEPENDENT TASK FORCE ON STRENGTHENING PALESTINIAN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS
Michel Rocard, Chair
Former Prime Minister of France and President of the Commission on Development and Cooperation of the European Parliament
Henry Siegman, Project Director
Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations Director, U.S./Middle East Project
Yezid Sayigh, Assistant Director, Centre for International Studies, University of Cambridge
Khalil Shikaki, Director, Center for Palestine Research and Studies (Nablus)
Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister of Sweden, Chairman, Moderate Party
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Former Foreign Minister of Germany
Felipe Gonzalez, Deputy President of the Socialist International; Former Prime Minister of Spain
Abdlatif Al-Hamad, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Kuwait
Lee Hamilton, Former United States Congressman, Director, Woodrow Wilson Int’l Center
Douglas Hurd, Deputy Chairman, Coutts & Co.; Former Foreign Secretary of the U.K.
Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Former United States Senator from Kansas
Otto Graf Lambsdorff, Former Minister of Economics, Germany, Chairman of the Board, Friedrich-Naumann Foundation
Jacques de Larosiere, Former Head of the IMF and EBRD, Former Governor of the French Central Bank
Terje Roed-Larsen, Special Advisor to Foreign Minister of Norway; Former UN Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories
Miguel Moratinos, European Union Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process
Romano Prodi, President-Designate of European Commission; Former Prime Minister of Italy
Mario Soares, President of the European Movement; Former President of Portugal
Dick Spring, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ireland, Labor Party Spokesperson and MP
Dov Zakheim, Chief Executive Officer of SPC International; Former US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense