Cities in action: relief for people in need

7 May 2024

Currently, several cities in the Eurocities network are engaged in relief efforts regarding the unfolding situation in Gaza. Here is a short account of some of those actions:

In Ghent, following the outbreak of hostilities in October 2023, Mayor De Clercq and his board of deputy mayors decided to set aside an emergency aid budget for the immediate medical care needs of the population in Gaza. As a result, the city donated €20,000 to Doctors Without Borders.

Barcelona approved a similar extraordinary aid budget, allocating €300,000 to help the food needs of the population in the Gaza Strip. Thanks to a further €300,000 in co-financing from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNWRA, the project hopes to deliver basic food products to 20,582 people throughout the 10 months that the intervention lasts, of which approximately 10,947 will be women (51%).

In parallel, Barcelona City Council has been in constant contact with Gaza City Council to explore several options to support it directly. Two options have been identified: One through the Turkish Crescent, the Association of Turkish Municipalities and UCLG-MEWA; and another through Acció Contra la Fam (an NGO), which is trying to set up a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) support project. But for now, given the conditions of the current context, it is very difficult to find a way outside of UNRWA and the United Nations agencies.

Meanwhile, Nantes Metropole is mobilising its dedicated emergency fund from the water budget (in accordance with the French Oudin-Santini law) of €25,000 to help the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. In order to come to the aid of children and families who are victims of the conflict, the Metropolitan Council meeting of 12 April 2024 unanimously approved the emergency aid to the French Committee for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF France). The United Nations Children’s Fund is concentrating its efforts in the Gaza Strip to meet the vital needs of children, relying on its staff and partners who are always present on the ground. The actions deployed concern, in particular, access to water, hygiene, sanitation, physical health and mental health, nutrition and education.

“Nantes Metropole acts in line with the French State,” said Anthony Berthelot, Member of the Executive Bureau of Nantes Metropole in charge of international cooperation. “Children are the first victims of this armed conflict and Nantes Metropole’s urgency aid is dedicated to their basic needs.” Elsewhere, Brussels has recently opened a centre to collect non-perishable foodstuffs for Gaza, following the same model that it orchestrated for supporting casualties of the earthquakes in both Morocco and Türkiye.

Longer-term actions

In Ghent, a new sustainable purchasing policy incorporates guarantees regarding labour and human rights with the suppliers of the products that the city purchases. The city has done this because it wants guarantees that it does not (in)directly provide support to those involved in the armed conflict. The city council called for a ban on products from Israeli companies that make money from the illegal occupation and blockade of the Palestinian Territories in a motion on 27 November 2023. To this end, the Board of Mayor and Deputy Mayors developed a workable approach for purchases by the City of Ghent, which was approved on 7 March 2024.

It concerns all government contracts for works, supplies and services from the City and OCMW of Ghent (‘Public centre for social welfare’, which provides a number of social services). As such, prospective contractors take on board to act as a prudent and reasonable partner and try to avoid:

  • Collaboration with companies based in the State of Israel that generate profits from economic activities linked to the illegal occupation and blockade of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem;
  • Products and ingredients of products supplied by companies based in the State of Israel that generate profits from economic activities linked to the illegal occupation and blockade of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Barcelona City Council has been financing and supporting development and humanitarian aid projects in the Gaza Strip since 1999. All projects are reported to the Consulate of Spain in Jerusalem, which coordinates and supports all Spanish cooperation implemented in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and which monitors the application of the European Directives in relation to the financing of terrorism.

Most of the projects financed are done through local NGOs and basically deal with training and improvement of health and psychosocial care services. None of these projects contemplates any direct or indirect funding from government institutions in Gaza (de facto authorities), and all are finally audited following Spanish Order EHA/1434/2007 of 17 May 2023.

In relation to direct technical cooperation activities with the Gaza City Council, these exchanges are technical and knowledge-based, and do not involve any transfer of funds or any material to the Gaza Strip.

In addition, Barcelona has financed a yearly project in Gaza since 2012. Last year, the focus of the project was to promote the provision of maternal and child health services in the Gaza Strip to guarantee the right to health of Palestinian refugee women at the Sabra health centre.

Whether it be via relief efforts, in their policy initiatives, or through implementing innovative local solutions to their main challenges, cities are increasingly focussed on the big picture.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer