The EPD’s main activities include mapping the existing barriers within the government ministries and the Arab local governments that lead to unequal allocation of state resources to the Arab citizens and advocacy activities for policy change.
The department is led by two directors, an Arab and a Jew, and includes research and advocacy coordinators and a research unit. The department leads Sikkuy’s actions for changing government policy and reducing and eliminating the gaps between the Arab and Jewish citizens.
Since the 1990’s, Sikkuy along with other civil society organizations has worked to create awareness and recognition of the gaps between Arabs and Jews in Israel in all socio-economic fields and in policy. Today, there is a wide consensus among Israeli policy-makers that the gaps exist and that they should be narrowed. There must be an examination of the processes and barriers within the government and the Arab citizens that prevent equal apportionment of the resources.
It is important to note that because of the unique characteristics of the Arab community and the gaps that are the result of decades of discrimination, it is primarily the responsibility of the government to eliminate the barriers to equality (in terms of the outcomes) in an efficient, equal, timely (planning and budgeting) and accessible manner (regionally, economically, socially and culturally). We realize that there are barriers from within the Arab community as well, but the government should regard these as realities that must be dealt with in the planning and implementation stages. On the other hand, this obligates the Arab population, as individuals and as a community, and mostly at the level of the local municipalities, to overcome these internal barriers and the barriers within the government ministries in order to secure additional resources.
The department’s goals
- Identifying the barriers and processes within the government bureaucracy that prevent equal distribution of government resources to the Arab citizens.
- After a process of mapping the barriers, formulating policy recommendations for apportioning state resources equally to the Arab citizens and actions to implement these recommendations and policy changes.
- Developing direct and effective modes of cooperation between the government officials and the Arab municipalities.
Fields of activities
After an extensive dialogue with the Prime Minister’s office in 2008, it was decided that the EPD would focus its activities on the following government bodies: the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Welfare, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice. In recent years additional ministries were added including the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance. The areas of activity include: public transportation, employment, child day-care and others. These ministries and issues were chosen based on criteria which include: the scope of inequality, the impact of the inequality on Arab citizens and Sikkuy’s capacity to generate change in the government and more.
A large proportion of resources allocated to the Arab community is transmitted through Arab local councils and municipalities. Therefore Sikkuy’s work cannot be wide-raging and effective without working with both the governmental authorities and the local municipalities. Consequently Sikkuy facilitates effective cooperation between decision-makers on both the governmental and local level.
Promoting successful government plans
The EPD works closely with the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors in the Prime Minister’s office to maximize the successful implementation of a number of governmental plans for socio-economic development in Arab communities. Sikkuy works vis a vis both the government ministries as well as the Arab municipalities participating in the plans.
The department supervises the advancement and implementation of government decision #1539 of 2010 to promote economic development in a number of Arab towns and cities (also known as the “Five-Year Plan”). The government has allocated 780 million shekels to 13 Arab cities that comprise more than 400,000 citizens for infrastructure, housing, public transportation, industrial zones and other projects.
Moreover, the EPD monitors the government’s decision #4432 of 2012 that added 58 Arab towns to the Five-Year Plan.
The process of mapping the barriers takes place in cooperation with leading ministry staff and senior staff of the Arab municipalities. The mapping process examines the way in which government resources are transferred to the Arab citizens and the actions of the Arab municipalities vis a vis the government ministries. Sikkuy identifies the barriers to equality policies, formulates policy recommendations, publishes the barriers and the recommendations and works directly with the government ministries and the Arab municipalities to modify the policies in accordance with the recommendations.
Within the framework of the department, Sikkuy developed a path breaking and innovative model, “From Barriers to Opportunities” which identifies barriers to equality and formulates policy recommendations that are achievable. The model enables an in-depth decoding of the causes of unequal allocation of resources and budgets to the Arab community in Israel. This is one of Sikkuy’s greatest professional accomplishments in examining the government’s policies toward the Arab citizens. The model was successfully utilized in various fields and as of 2013 Sikkuy has published a number of “From Barriers to Opportunities” policy documents, including: Day-Care Frameworks for Children at Risk Up to Age 3, The Legal Aid Offices, Land Registration in Arab Society in Israel, The Marketing of State-owned Land for Development and Construction in Arab Communities, The Allocation of the Welfare Ministry’s Budgets and Social Worker Positions to Social Service Departments in Arab Local Authorities and the most recent policy report summarized recommendations concerning public transportation in Arab towns and cities.
On the basis of these reports Sikkuy has worked intensively with government ministries and Arab local authorities and succeeded in advancing significant changes in government policies in various areas.