WHAT: Project Unified Assistance (PUA) is a US-based humanitarian nonprofit organization advocating for the establishment a UN-operated and regulated airport in the Gaza Strip.
WHY: A recent United Nations report warned that the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020 for its 1.8 million residents. Serious changes must be implemented to reverse the damage done to the coastal enclave’s development. Additionally, the World Bank warned in May 2016 that Gaza’s economy is on the verge of collapse and that youth unemployment is the highest in the region at 60%. After years of war, destruction, and poverty, an airport for functional, utilitarian purposes could help accelerate Gaza’s reconstruction and redevelopment process. It would also alleviate Gazans’ chronic inability to travel in and out of the Strip in an effective and safe manner.
WHEN: As soon as possible and before 2020.
Achievements of PUA
1. Acquired U.S. federal tax-exempt status for the organization in accordance with complex legal requirements, rules, and regulations, particularly those that govern international development work in unstable parts of the world.
2. Developed and presented a new comprehensive vision for the Gaza Airport by proposing a humanitarian, service-based framework for creating and operating the airport.
3. Established fundamental and essential technical details for making the proposed airport feasible and practical and to address the complex geopolitical needs of relevant parties.
4. Created a large network of volunteers and advisers, throughout the world and the Palestinian Territories, who possess needed skills and expertise in relevant fields and who have significant contacts to help grow the proposal and expand its reach.
5. Mobilized popular support for the proposed U.N. airport with the Palestinian people through strategic use of social media, public outreach, publishing stories in local media outlets, and sharing relevant educational materials publicly. This helped shift the airport issue from a political one to a popular, grassroots demand for the right to travel freely in a manner consistent with Article 13 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Our verified Facebook page (which has acquired over 55,000 "likes," of which 40,000 are from Palestine) has become the primary platform for communicating with the Palestinian people.
6. Conducted a diplomatic outreach campaign to Palestinian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and international parties to educate them about the proposed U.N. airport and stimulate creative discussions about how it can be implemented.
7. Acquired preliminary approval for PUA's vision for the proposed airport from the Palestinian President and presented relevant details to Palestinian officials.
8. Received a non-objection (approval) through intermediaries from Hamas regarding PUA's vision of third party international management of the airport as well as the critical issue of land use. Specifically, PUA received guarantees about the al-Mawasi area on the southwestern coast of Gaza between Khan Yunis and Rafah.
9. Presented the proposal to international experts, groups, and organizations in the United States, Europe, Israel and Palestine to inform and engage them about the Gaza Airport Proposal.
10. Opened channels with Israeli citizens and organizations who are interested in the proposed airport and began developing relationships with members of the Jewish community in the United States.
Critical Next Steps
1. Reach out to Israeli decision-makers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and present the Gaza Airport Proposal and its details to them.
2. Continue to develop a relationship with the Palestinian Authority and obtain public diplomatic support from Ramallah for the proposed airport and plan concrete action steps.
3. Communicate with relevant U.N. bodies to discuss various components of the proposed airport and to develop a framework for implementing it with international support.
4. Study the model of the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EUBAM Rafah) which administered the Rafah Border Crossing from 2005 to 2006 to determine if any of its components can be used for the proposed airport.
5. Conduct an extensive educational outreach campaign via diplomatic and media channels in the Middle East and internationally.
6. Continue to generate widespread support among the Palestinian people for the proposed airport.
7. Fundraise for PUA's operations and communicate with possible funding sources to finance the construction and operation of the airport.
8. Seek funding specifically for the development of a Master Plan for the implementation of the proposed airport to include aviation, engineering, security, and risk-management components.
9. Consider creating a symbolic, ground-breaking ceremony to be sponsored by the Palestinian Authority and U.N./international officials when significant progress has been made with getting the proposed airport approved by Israel and other relevant parties.
10. Examine options for opening a regional presence/office in the Gaza Strip that could be managed via a professional private company such as "CTG Global - International Humanitarian Support" which manages the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) on behalf of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).