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[Opinion] How Int’l Aid is Shrinking Civil Space: Case of the Palestinian NGO Network

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The international donor community, led by the EU, has expressed grave concerns regarding this troublesome trend. As described in a study commissioned by the European Parliament, “The shrinking space problem is on its way to being mainstreamed at the heart of EU foreign policy.” Marking International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2017, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini reiterated the EU’s commitment to protecting human rights defenders through its “multi-faceted response to the shrinking space for civil society.”

PNGO enjoys generous funding from the EU and other international donors, and is entrusted with the task of strengthening, coordinating, and networking amongst “civil society.” Together with the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), a European NGO network, PNGO also enjoys permanent representation in the UN’s Humanitarian Country Team, which coordinates all humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. This comes with a seat on the advisory board of the UN’s humanitarian pooled fund, which is designated for unforeseen emergency. This seat grants PNGO decision-making power in selecting the fund’s beneficiaries. In 2017, $3.1 million of the fund’s allocations was provided to member organizations of either AIDA or PNGO – meaning that these two networks ensured that their own member NGOs received roughly 40% of the total funding ($7.9 million as of October 2017).

International aid has the potential to both create positive change and to inflict damage. It is our responsibility to ensure that we do the former, and stay far away from the latter.