On October 25, 2023, the Swiss Foreign Ministry announced suspension of funding for 11 NGOs (5 Palestinian, 5 Israeli, 1 US-based – details here) pending “an in-depth analysis of the compliance of these organizations’ communications with the FDFA’s Code of Conduct and anti-discrimination clause, to which external partners are subject.”
In response, the NGOs and their allies launched a media campaign to reverse this decision.
On November 15, 2023, Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) published a report headlined “FDFA’s suspicions about eleven Israeli and Palestinian NGOs are largely unfounded”, (translated from French original) claiming that the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) “concluded that only three pro-Palestinian organizations have violated the Swiss cooperation code of conduct.” The lengthy RTS article failed to provide any details on the organizations, the Swiss government grants, or the NGO activities.
In the RTS article, the head of one of the Israeli NGOs accused NGO Monitor of having influenced Switzerland’s decision:
The official “called into question the role played by the NGO Monitor institute, an agency close to the Israeli government which regularly publishes reports supposed to demonstrate the double game of human rights activists who in fact support the terrorism and would participate in the ‘demonization’ of Israel….”
The article also alleges that “NGO Monitor has been carrying out its lobbying activities for many years with federal parliamentarians from the Switzerland-Israel Friendship Group. The reports served as the basis for several interventions in the Federal Chambers to try to stop all or part of Swiss cooperation with NGOs active in the Middle East.” (Translated from French original)
NGO Monitor is an independent research institute that does not accept any government support. The fully-sourced reports and academic publications are available online to a wide spectrum of decision-makers, and are cited by officials and in analyses of NGO funding. As a result, some governments have revised or ended partnerships with NGO grantees and adopted new vetting procedures and oversight mechanisms to ensure that taxpayer funds do not go to groups linked to terror organizations, and/or that disseminate antisemitism and hate.
FDFA’s decision to review the 11 NGO grantees is an important acknowledgement that the NGO funding process requires careful vetting and constant monitoring. This is particularly true in the context of the October 7th Hamas massacre in Southern Israel, which lifted the veil on several “human rights” groups that justify and glorify violence, and deny atrocities.
Looking forward, if all stakeholders, donor governments and NGO recipients implement due diligence in detailed evidence-based vetting mechanisms, this will help ensure that hatred, incitement to violence, antisemitism, and terror affiliation have no place in the realm of human rights.
- In addition, the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende published an interview with Ruth Dreifuss, who held the rotating presidency of the Swiss confederation in 1999. For unknown reasons, Dreifuss was asked about the NGO funding review, and responded with a blanket defense of the organizations – “NGOs promote peace and cooperation in civil society.” The publication failed to disclose the conflict of interest resulting from her role as an official of the controversial New Israel Fund (Swiss section), which supports some of the Israeli NGOs among the 11 that are under review. The quote was also highlighted in the government website Swissinfo.ch under the headline “Former Swiss president: funding freeze for Middle East NGOs ‘more than wrong.’” (11 November 2023)