Following the signing of the Protocol for Redeployment in Hebron and the establishment of a joint committee to supervise its implementation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister David Levy and Palestinian Authority Chief Negotiator Abu Mazen, the "People to People" program resumed its activities, headed by the Director-General of the Israel Foreign Ministry.
The initiative for the "People to People" (PTP) program originates in a "concept paper" discussed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority before the beginning of the Interim Agreement negotiations. Later, the heads of the delegations to the Interim Agreement negotiations agreed to include the "People to People" program in Annex VI to the Agreement, which discusses Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
It was also agreed that a third party be invited to coordinate the program, given the assumption that exclusively bilateral coordination might lead to difficulties in implementing the program. In response to a joint appeal by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Norwegian government agreed to undertake the coordination of the program and to fund most of its activities.
The following is the agreed Annex to the Interim Agreement regarding PTP:
ARTICLE VIII: The People-to People Program
The Two sides shall cooperate in enhancing the dialogue and relations between their peoples in accordance with the concepts developed in cooperation with the Kingdom of Norway.
The two sides shall cooperate in enhancing dialogue and relations between their peoples, as well as in gaining a wider exposure of the two publics to the peace process, its current situation and predicted results.
The two sides shall take steps to foster public debate and involvement, to remove barriers to interaction, and to increase the people to people exchange and interaction within all areas of cooperation described in this Annex and in accordance with the overall objectives and principles set out in this Annex.
2. The "People to People" Philosophy
The PTP’s philosophy was outlined in the program’s founding statement, which was published and distributed among interested parties and whose contents speak for themselves:
The People-to-People Program
A program to enhance Palestinian – Israeli dialogue and relations
In the spirit of the peace process, and in line with the Israeli-Palestinian September 1995 Interim Agreement, the two sides shall cooperate in enhancing the dialogue and relations between their peoples in accordance with concepts developed in cooperation with the Kingdom of Norway.
The program shall foster wider public exposure to and involvement in the peace process; it will strengthen and increase the direct people-to-people relationships and cooperation based on equality and reciprocity.
In order to achieve these objectives, the program supports joint initiatives by Israeli and Palestinian public and private organization. Priority is given to initiatives that have a potential to bridge large audiences in the two societies. The program emphasises the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in direct people-to-people interaction and "grassroots" cooperation. Target project areas are: (1) Youth; (2) Adult dialogue and seminars; (3) Culture; (4) Environment; and (5) Media and communication.
The program is NGO-driven and facilitated by the Kingdom of Norway. The two partners in the program work together in a Joint Planning Group. Norway provides the Joint Planning Group with a secretariat through the Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science.
The Joint Planning Group serves as an information base for people-to-people activities. It assists in finding suitable cooperation partners, and in searching for funding of projects. The Joint Planning Group also facilitates coordination with the authorities as required.
Norway is the main sponsor of the program. Other funding partners are invited to join the program and to make use of its facilities.
3. Current "People to People" Activities The current state of PTP activities is as follows:
A. The Program Administration – A Joint Planning Group, assisted by a Norwegian secretariat, functions as the program’s backbone. Members of the Joint Planning Group include the director of the Foreign Ministry’s Autonomy Division, the head of the Israeli Desk in the Palestinian Authority, and a representative of the Norwegian Embassy.
The Joint Planning Group determines the PTP program’s main objectives and areas of activity. Its role is to formulate and select joint Israeli-Palestinian people-to-people projects. All of the program’s projects are carried out by Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, in Israeli and Palestinian Autonomy areas only.
B. The Projects – On January 1, 1996, the PTP program issued an appeal to the public in the Israeli and Palestinian press, requesting proposals for projects. By December 31, 120 responses were received from both Israelis and Palestinians. Based on these, the agenda for projects to be carried out in 1997 was drawn up, including 34 projects whose funding is estimated at $700,000 (provided mostly by the Norwegian government, with an additional sum from the Karev Foundation, a partner in the project).
C. The PTP program’s budget for 1996 included another 13 projects, which are currently being implemented. All in all, the program will be involved in 47 projects over the next few months. The issuing of a second call for proposals will be considered, taking into account the speed with which the existing projects are implemented as well as budgetary considerations.
D. Following are some of the PTP projects approved in 1996, which are now being negotiated or implemented:
- A joint "People to People" Internet website.
- A collection of books concerning Israeli society to be supplied to 100 libraries in the Autonomy, and, conversely, a collection of books on the Palestinian society for 100 Israeli libraries.
- Meetings for youth from Tel Aviv and Gaza (over a dozen such encounters have taken place so far, bringing together over a thousand young Palestinians and Israelis.)
- An Israeli-Palestinian women’s forum.
- An Israeli-Palestinian academic forum.
- The publication and distribution of a collection of lectures about the peace process, compiled out of joint seminars.
- An Israeli-Palestinian educators’ forum.
- "Windows", a bilingual weekly magazine for children, published and distributed in the Palestinian Authority and in Israel.
4. Additional Partners
A number of potential new partners have expressed their avid interest in the program, among them the United States, Canada, Belgium, Japan, Germany, the EU and others. Some of these are seeking active participation in the program, including the funding of PTP projects. PTP should therefore be considered a center of activity, including a reliable information base, which will prevent duplicate activities and strengthen cost-effective projects.