On June 2, 2017, the Danish government announced that it was freezing all funds to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) via the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (the Secretariat) pending a thorough review of its grantees’ activities. The Secretariat is a joint funding mechanism, administering funds provided by the Danish, Dutch, Swedish, and Swiss governments, based out of Birzeit University in Ramallah.
“The Danish decision to freeze funding to the Secretariat is a significant milestone for European governments that blindly channel tens of millions annually to radical NGOs,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor. “There is finally recognition of the lack of supervision and transparency throughout the NGO funding process.”
A large portion of the Secretariat’s $17.6 million three-year budget (2014-2016) was distributed to Palestinian NGOs that promote antisemitism, lawfare, and/or BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against Israel. Some of these groups also have ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization.
For years, European governments have automatically approved funding to NGOs operating in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including via the Secretariat. NGO Monitor has published numerous research reports on the Secretariat and the activities of its NGO grantees – alerting decision-makers in Israel and abroad to the lack of oversight and transparency.
These reports have led Israeli leaders and European governments to recognize that taxpayer money is being used for purposes that are inconsistent with the goals of supporting peace and human rights.
For example, the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), a Palestinian NGO funded by the Secretariat, was a partner in a women’s center named after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who murdered 35 Israelis. UN Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) and Norway, which provided support for the building, demanded a return of their funds and removal of their logos. On June 2, 2017, Denmark announced that it too would demand a return of funding from WATC and afterwards, announced a freeze on Secretariat related funding.
Denmark’s review adds to critical debate in Europe regarding funding to Palestinian NGOs. On March 8, 2017, the Swiss Parliament voted to stop funding to “NGOs involved in racist, antisemitic or hate incitement actions…,” and the bill moves to the Swiss Council of States for vote in June. A similar debate also took place in the Dutch Parliament in June 2016.