20 October 2005:
Analysis of NGO Funding: Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation
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SUMMARY: The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC),
a department within the Swiss Foreign Ministry, is very active in
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone. While its mission is to provide
humanitarian assistance, SDC also provides funding for a number of
NGOs with strong political agendas, such as Al Mezan, ARIJ, and "Dev.tv".
These groups emphasize external issues including the justification
of violence, rather than contributing to internal norms of good governance
and civil society. The political emphasis on SDC's website and the
indirect funding of other NGOs via Swisspeace are also inconsistent
with and undermine central development goals.
was established "to foster transformation processes with regard
to democratization, participation of the local population and improvements
in living conditions. To achieve this, it supports the political,
economic, social and institutional efforts of these countries. (Development)
cooperation is directed primarily at reducing poverty and empowering
disadvantaged groups, as well as eliminating structural inequalities."
On this basis, and like many other government development agencies
(see previous NGO Monitor reports on CIDA,
the SDC has been particularly active in projects providing assistance
to Palestinians. In Gaza and the West Bank, the SDC's strategic
objectives are to"enhance the prospects for peace, improve living
conditions, and promote viable and sustainable institutions." In
2005 the budget
of CHF 28.24m (approximately $U.S. 22 million) for this region is
explicitly for activities that "contribute to the development of
a pluralist and democratic Palestinian society, to respect for constitutionality
and to the creation of public institutions capable of assuming their
responsibilities in a future Palestinian state."
However, the department's funding of some NGOs
that emphasize radical anti-Israel political positions, in contrast
to promoting structural change within the Palestinian framework,
undermines these objectives and often promotes violence and its
These political groups include al
Mezan, which has been supported by the SDC since 1999 and received
$0.6m (2003-2005). The evidence indicates that Al Mezan is primarily
involved in promoting the political attacks against Israel (including
allegations of "war crimes") that contribute to conflict via the
United Nations, the media, and many other frameworks. In contrast
to this NGO's formal title as a "Center for Human Rights", its reports
do not include criticism of Palestinian abuses of human rights,
both internally, and through terror attacks against Israelis. In
parallel, the SDC has provided $0.8m to the Applied
Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) since August 2002, in the
form of a "core contribution to the general programme" - allowing
this highly political organization to promote its campaigns on the
"apartheid wall" and anti-Israel divestment. ARIJ's activities,
instead of promoting Palestinian governance and institutional development,
are inconsistent with and interfere with the SDC's mission.
The SDC also funds Dev.tv,
an NGO whose claimed "goal is to promote the production and distribution
of television coverage of issues related to human, economic and
environmental crises." However, an analysis of Dev.tv's documentaries
such as "Bedouin Ghetto" and "Everyday Violence in Gaza" also demonstrate
the primary goal of attacking Israel, rather than promoting Palestinian
development in, for example, the areas of democracy, accountability,
and sound economic policies.
In "Bedouin Ghetto", Dev.tv claims that the Israeli government has
a "policy of destroying the Bedouin way of life" and that Israel
is motivated by a need to "Judaize and Zionize" the country by impoverishing
the Bedouins and polluting their culture. And in "Everyday Violence
in Gaza," the film seems to justify terrorism by claiming that "a
symbol of power for a Palestinian child is a martyr." The producers
of this film assert that the need for such a "symbol" emerged from
the Palestinians' attempt to overcome the image of the 'father'
as "helpless" against the "Israeli soldier [who] represent[s] power."
Thus, Israel is held responsible for fostering a Palestinian culture
of terror. The bias and absence of any Israeli perspectives in the
documentaries help to promote the conflict, rather than assisting
in achieving development goals.
In 2004 the SDC
also provided CHF 1.2m to Swiss Peace, an "action-oriented peace-research
institute in the area of conflict analysis and peace-building".
is a major partner in the Center for Peacebuilding, which organizes
events to "bring together representatives from government, development
cooperation, peace movement and economic and scientific circles
for the methodical sharing of experiences and knowledge". However,
in contrast to its claims of neutrality and promotion of peace,
this organization works closely with highly politicized NGOs such
Vision and Caritas.
In its links
and resources page, Swisspeace provides connections and endorses
the Alternative Information
and many others. Their externally directed and radical political
agendas have been analyzed in detail by other NGO-monitor reports,
and shown to be part of the conflict process, rather than useful
in promoting good governance.
Questions regarding the political emphasis in the SDC's activities
were reinforced by a July 2004 conference held in Geneva on 'Meeting
the Humanitarian Need of Palestinian Refugees', chaired by Walter
Fust, the Director of the SDC. This conference, which was cosponsored
by UNRWA, presented a biased political discussion based exclusively
on the Palestinian "narrative". The conference
program also promoted the controversial political claims regarding
the "right of return" and similar issues that maintain the conflict
and hinder Palestinian assumption of political and economic responsibility.
The SDC website's background summary on the West Bank
and Gaza is also based entirely on the Palestinian "narrative" and
its interpretation. For example, while Israel is condemned for imposing
"blanket curfews in many West Bank cities sometimes lasting for
weeks", the context of terrorism is absent. The report
also blames "Israeli attacks" for the destruction of Palestinian
"[s]tate structures which had been developed in recent years." Furthermore
the SDC's special website for 'Gaza
and the West Bank' displays pictures
of the IDF and security barrier with the title "humiliation, home
demolition, right of access" - all reflecting this one-sided political
perspective. By failing to provide any mention of Palestinian corruption
and leadership malfunction that have contributed to the economic
and social situation, the reports lacks credibility and cannot be
a basis for a successful development programme.
Additional SDC funds for projects outside the area
are also problematic. In 2004 the SDC awarded CHF 12.9m to Caritas
Switzerland and CHF3.4m to Medicines
Sans Frontieres, both of which have been involved in externally
directed political campaigning, despite their humanitarian remits.
Although the SDC does not directly fund these organizations' activities
in the Middle East, the large sums provide overhead costs, and administrative
and personnel expenses that subsidize other activities.
In summary, the evidence in this report demonstrates
use of SDC funding for activities and groups that focus primarily
on the political conflict with Israel, rather than on promoting
development and good governance. This agenda has also filtered through
to the SDC's own literature on the region, undermining the efforts
to promote economic and social progress. In order to achieve results,
and foster conditions that allow for cooperation, stability and
growth, SDC should insure that funding for Palestinian NGOs that
claim to promote development and civil society is actually used
for this purpose.
Researched by Judith Heistein (Summer 2005)