The resolution passed today in the Swiss Council of States will have a dramatic effect on government funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The final vote today follows three years of NGO Monitor publications and presentations documenting the issue of unchecked and unaccountable NGO funding by Switzerland. The resolution directs the government to “amend the laws, ordinances and regulations” to prevent funding to NGOs “involved in racist, antisemitic or hate incitement actions.”
“This decision marks a fundamental change – when we first approached Swiss government officials, including the Foreign Ministry, their response was denial,” said Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president at NGO Monitor. “For the first time, a European country has passed legislation to end funding for NGOs that are vehicles for incitement and hate speech, specifically including antisemitism.”
The resolution before the Council of States, the upper house of the Parliament, is a slightly modified version of a bill, initiated by Swiss MP Christian Imark, approved by the lower house of the Swiss Parliament (111 to 78, 4 abstentions) in March. The Swiss media has also covered the issues extensively.
NGO Monitor notes that a primary channel for Swiss funding to NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict is the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (“Secretariat”), a joint funding mechanism of Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The Secretariat has funded over 40 Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, including groups that engage in “lawfare” against Israeli officials and companies that do business with Israel, promote BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns, exploit the false “apartheid” analogy to demonize Israel, and/or promote antisemitic propaganda.
NGO Monitor has extensively documented numerous concerns relating to the Secretariat, which disbursed over $14 million to NGOs in 2014-16. For instance, 15 out of 24 core funding recipients and 11 of 20 project funding grantees in this period support BDS. $7.3 million in core funding went to the groups involved in BDS.
“We are seeing a dramatic and broad change in a number of European countries, with the Swiss vote following on the heels of Denmark’s decision to freeze funding to Palestinian NGOs, pending an investigation,” stated Prof. Steinberg. “NGO Monitor will continue to work with officials, parliamentarians, and diplomats from Switzerland, Denmark, and throughout Europe to monitor implementation of these changes, particularly regarding Secretariat funding.”
For more information on Swiss funding to NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict, see NGO Monitor reports “Switzerland” and “Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat: Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands”.