The signing of the Oslo Accords (1994) and the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority have increased bilateral and decentralized cooperation relations between France and Palestine. More than 100 French communities are present in Palestine and operate in several areas, including culture, youth, sports, education and development. The decentralized cooperation is gaining increased importance in the development sector, particularly in the field of water and sanitation.
The French legal framework governing the international actions of the local authorities has enabled the development of these partnerships, particularly in the sectors of water and sanitation. In 2005, the promulgation of a new law called the Oudin-Santini (passed at the National Assembly) allowed French local authorities, water agencies, and public inter-municipal institutions to spend up to 1% of the resources allocated, in the water and wastewater budgets to finance international cooperation. By virtue of this law, several French stakeholders regarded Palestine as a potential partner. The first partnerships started in the late 1990s and they continue to grow today, with sixteen current partnerships.
The decentralized cooperation focuses mainly on sharing expertise and building capacities within the Palestinian municipalities and joint services councils. These partnerships between local authorities strengthen the management of water and sanitation services in Palestine through various components, including technical assistance. The commitment of French communities in Palestine is remarkable, and is particularly enhanced by mutual trust and understanding of the urgent priorities.
The French ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Palestinian Ministries of Planning and Local Government signed an agreement for the launch of a French-Palestinian joint fund to support decentralized cooperation projects during the year 2014.
Thanks to their presence in Palestine for several years, French local authorities are now an integral part of the landscape of the sector, and their positioning complements other stakeholders. The decentralized cooperation is a key coordination and intervention field of the SCAC of the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem. The decentralized cooperation in Palestine is followed globally by the Decentralized Cooperation Network for Palestine (RCDP). This association has in-depth knowledge of the French-Palestinian network and also an extensive network of contacts in Palestine, and can therefore offer assistance in planning missions in Palestine. Water projects within the decentralized cooperation are supported and coordinated by a project officer based in the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).