THE OSLO accords of 1993 and 1995 were meant not only to initiate a peace process in a troubled region of the Middle East but also to enable cross-cultural cooperation and collaboration on issues of common interest or concern.
Apart from a few high-profile conferences and symposia, individuals and institutions who are enthusiastic about cooperation have found that organising and managing projects is a difficult and thankless task.
The practicalities of communication and coordination across borders which are open one day and then shut for the next month discourage many from trying to develop joint actions.
However, Galilee College, in the Carmel hills near Haifa, Israel, has found a variety of funding sources to support collaboration with Palestinian and other Arab educational and research organisations. Collaboration with Egyptian and Palestinian groups is already taking place and links with Moroccan, Tunisian, and Jordanian groups are planned to start in the next 12 months.
As an independent institute, Galilee College has been able to pursue opportunities that other Israeli colleges and universities might not consider. Funding for collaboration has come from the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, the UN Environment Programme and the European Union. Strong but mainly informal links with neighbouring Haifa University and the local town of Kiryat Tivon have been important in the college's development since it was founded in 1987.
The EU's Med-Campus programme has been a cornerstone of the college's collaborative success. Med-Campus is designed to support networks of European and Mediterranean institutes where staff, resources and know-how are shared for the benefit of the participants from the less developed countries.
The collaboration is centred on the design and delivery of training programmes on subjects such as port management, tourism planning, healthcare management, small and medium sized enterprise development, and environmental policy.
EU support covers topics such as urban development, technology research and development, and media. Although the success of these programmes is patchy, several Arab-Israeli initiatives have been funded in each area.
Other short courses at Galilee are run specifically for Palestinian students from government, NGO and private organisations. Support for these courses comes from both international aid organisations and individual governments who have committed funds for projects which promote Arab-Israeli cooperation. Lectures are adapted, where possible, to suit Palestinian contexts with students staying in campus accommodation.
Major Israeli universities appear either unable or unwilling to get involved in large scale cooperation with their Arab and Palestinian neighbours along the lines being demonstrated in the Carmel Hills.