Professor Mitchell Kosny

May 2, 2004

Peace-building Through Local Government in Rafah:
A Communication From Prof. Mitchell Kosny

Civilians are the principal victims in the ebb and flow of militarized violence in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza and Palestinian Authority Territories. Conflict has been marked by attacks on civilians and civilian objects by both Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups.

Palestinian municipalities, the only order of government that is still functioning, face enormous challenges as they try to provide leadership and basic services to their constituents. The Palestinian Territories Municipal Management Programme (PMMP), managed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), is working with the Rafah municipality to build capacity and enhance public participation in municipal management.

In reviewing the project (PMMP), it has been enormously successful in how it has:

    · resulted in a fine municipal plan for Rafah;

    · given Rafah’s leaders and citizens tools and processes to respond to
    challenges and improve municipal governance, as well as physical
    and tangible products to demonstrate positive changes;
    · capitalized on strong political will to support local government
    development and decentralization;
    · made on-going investments in training and capacity-building; and
    · been sensitive to local sensibilities by introducing new and
    progressive ideas that are relevant and applicable to local culture and
    conditions.

A key component of PMMP was the commitment and involvement of Members of Rafah’s Municipal Council, and Municipal Officials. Through Saied Fathi Zouroub (Mayor) and Dr. Ali Shehda Barhoum (Municipal Manager), there was complete commitment to both the process and products of the project.

It is interesting to re-read comments made in December 1999 by Mayor Zouroub when Rafah 2015 was launched:

‘This is a very different kind of planning process for this first Palestinian Municipal Council. Our planners have had consultations with over 500 citizens of Rafah to ask for their views about the future of the city. In addition, extensive research and analysis was completed in land use, transportation, economic, environmental, recreational, and community services which affect our daily lives.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that the process used in Rafah 2015 was open, transparent, and participatory. The Plan is owned by all citizens of Rafah.’

There is little doubt that, without this kind of personal and institutional commitment to democratizing local government, this entire effort would have failed. That commitment remains as PMMP enters its second phase (2003-2006), which will build on the successes and lessons learned from Phase 1.

Mitchell Kosny, MRCP, Ph.D., is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Canada, M5B 2K3. He can be reached at email mkosny@ryerson.ca. Prof. Kosny has worked for several years with the Rafah municipality as part of a larger Federation of Canadian Municipalities Project. Much of the statement above is drawn from “Building Capacity for Peace and Unity: Role of Local Government in Peacebuilding”, a joint publication of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program and with collaboration from the Canadian Urban Institute, 2004.

Prof. Kosny warmly supports the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (we will be happy to share correspondence). He has worked closely with the Rafah municipal authority, and, as indicated in the statement above, thinks highly of the Rafah municipal leadership.

We have provided copies of the Rafah municipal strategic plan to Alders and will be happy to provide copies to other interested persons.