The Middle East is one of the world's most unstable regions. The political, ethnic and religious animosities and conflicts present in the region have led to the outbreak of many interstate and civil wars. Military activity in such places as Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and the continuing civil war in Syria have led not only to thousands of dead and injured, but have also resulted in large-scale destruction of property and infrastructure, significantly weakening the pace of socio-economic development in these countries. The Middle East is also an area of huge disproportions in living standards and social development. The wealth of the Persian Gulf states, accumulated owing to their natural resources, contrasts with the poverty, high level of unemployment and low levels of educational attainment and health services prevalent in other countries of the region.
In most of these countries, universal human rights and civil liberties such as freedom of expression, assembly or association are regularly violated and restricted. Discrimination and physical and sexual violence towards women remains commonplace. Demographically, the Middle East is a young region, where children up to the age of 14 and adults aged 25-54 constitute the most numerous age groups.
The Middle East as a whole is not a Polish development aid priority. Under the “Multiannual Development Cooperation Programme for 2012-2015” the region's only country among the geographical priority areas of Polish aid is the Palestinian National Authority. In respect of other countries, such as Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, Polish aid is channelled through a system of small grants, i.e. projects implemented by Polish diplomatic missions that support local communities and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Aid measures for the Palestinian National Authority under the Development Cooperation Programme focus on improving access to education, equal educational opportunities and improving the quality of schooling (education sector), improvement of the water supply and sanitation infrastructure, better access to water and municipal waste management (water and sanitation sector), professional activation in the field of agriculture, trade and services, and support for commercial activity coupled with strengthening entrepreneurs' associations (SME sector and new jobs creation).
In case of a humanitarian crisis, natural disaster or man-made disaster in the region Poland is ready to provide humanitarian aid. One example is the co-financing provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for humanitarian campaigns undertaken by Polish NGOs for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan in response to the conflict in Syria.