The Ministry for Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation is the international development arm of the Finnish Foreign Ministry. Its purpose is to provide humanitarian assistance and fund development projects in developing countries. However some of its funds are being diverted to promote politicized NGOs that contribute to incitement, such as the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER). Funds also go (directly and via KIOS) to NGOs whose activities contradict the goals of the Ministry for Development Cooperation.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation (here after FDC) of the Finnish Government distributes governmental funds for the "promotion of global security, [a] reduction of widespread poverty [and the] promotion of human rights and democracy" in developing countries. In 2005 FDC disbursed over €600 million ($735.6m) for development projects and organizations around the world. Since 2000 the Palestinian administered areas have been in the top sixteen recipients of Finnish development funds and have received roughly €28 million ($34m) in bilateral funds from Finland overall.
At a local level, funds destined for NGO’s are channeled through the Fund for Local Cooperation, a subsection of FDC, which functions through Finland’s Embassies and Representative Offices. For the years 2003-2006, €715,000 ($865,150) was allocated for development projects and organizations supported by the Finnish Government in the Palestinian territories to be disbursed through the Fund.
While a number of the NGO’s supported by the FDC perform humanitarian development work, some recipients of Finnish government funding abuse their status for political campaigning and demonization of Israel. A notable example is the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG). It claims to document "human rights violations committed against Palestinians…regardless of who is responsible" but also emphasizes "the need to denounce Israeli human rights abuses." In implementing this agenda, PHRMG criticizes the Palestinian Authority on issues such as freedom of expression, internal corruption, weapons proliferation in the territories and civil-society issues such as honor killings. However, the center also pursues externally focused political and lobbying activities, exploiting human rights rhetoric for incitement against Israel. For example, in a letter sent to Kofi Annan PHRMG quotes statistics of the number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of the intifada and accuses Israel of "violence [sic] to the International Humanitarian Law, which constitute war crimes". The letter does not acknowledge Palestinian terror as a causative factor in IDF operations, disregards the military dilemmas posed by Palestinian terrorists hiding in an urban environment, and makes no mention of Israeli victims. In another press release, PHRMG also "laments" the "assassination" of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, in part due to his "moderation" within the movement. The NGO goes on to say: "Assassination is an internationally condemned action, violating several human right laws." "Violence begets more violence, and Hamas has stated that retaliation attacks will follow. By such acts of violence, Israel is bringing disaster to its own people."
The declared mission of another FDC supported NGO, the International Center of Bethlehem (ICB), is to promote the building of Palestinian civil society by "equipping the local community to assume a proactive role in shaping their future…, cultivating artistic talents, and facilitating intercultural encounters". In reality, the institute also engages in political activities and promotes Sabeel, a radical NGO which supports the "one state solution," employs classical antisemitic theological themes and has been very active in promoting the divestment campaign. The head of Sabeel, Rev. Naim Ateek, was on a panel of an ICB conference entitled "Shaping Communities in Times of Crisis: Narratives of Land, Peoples and Identities" in November 2005. ICB’s activities include a letter to US Senator Hillary Clinton, calling on her to reconsider her support for the Israeli security fence. The letter argues that to justify the fence as a defense against terrorism is "offensive" and it states that "the Wall is less about security than it is about colonizing land and controlling its [the Palestinian’s] indigenous population." The NGO claims that the fence renders Bethlehem a "big, open-air prison" and "is illegal and violates our rights to land, jobs, family, free movement, dignity, and self-determination," again erasing the context of terror.
World Vision-Finland, directly funded by FDC and a global partner of World Vision International, is a Christian relief and development organization which "through emergency relief, education, health care, economic development and promotion of justice…helps communities help themselves." World Vision does indeed carry out positive humanitarian work in Palestinian society, implementing vocational training programs and providing health care for malnourished children. However, the World Vision regional webpage is highly politicized and blames Israel for social problems within the West Bank and Gaza, as documented in detail by NGO Monitor.
In 2006 the FDC gave €900,000 ($1.1m) to KIOS, a Finnish foundation claiming to "promote human rights in developing countries." KIOS supports four NGOs in the region: the Public Committee against Torture, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER). In 2001 KIOS joined with highly politicized ICJ and EMHRN when it awarded a grant of 20,000FIM ($4,140) to PCHR to carry out a joint fact finding mission in the Palestinian Territories "in order to make an independent, objective and expert assessment of the human rights situation on the ground." PCHR regularly uses the language of demonization and incitement in its allegations of Israeli human rights abuses. For example, in a memorandum submitted to the Consul Generals of the European Union in April 2004 PCHR claimed that "the Israeli military has continued to commit grave breaches of the Convention, namely war crimes, which include but are not restricted to: willful killings; torture or inhuman treatment…" FDC’s support of PCHR is inconsistent with the proclaimed goal of using development funding to promote "greater prosperity, promotes political stability and security, reducing the threat of crisis and war."
KIOS also provides funding for JCSER, an NGO that uses rhetoric of apartheid and accuses Israel of "ethnic cleansing."Â The example of JCSER highlights the accountability gap when governments channel development funding via NGOs such as KIOS.Â The FDC is KIOS’ sole source of income, which acts as an independent NGO and awards grants entirely at the discretion of its board (which includes representatives from Amnesty International and UNICEF). As a result, the ability of FDC to supervise the activities of organizations that receive government money is very limited.
The NGO calling itself "Psychologists for Social Responsibility" based in Washington, DC is also funded directly by the FDC. Its mission, it states, is to "facilitate positive changes for victims and survivors of personal, community, and civil violence" but its actions are often political. For example, PSR has lobbied President Bush "to rethink America’s stand on missile defense and to reconsider the sale of Apache Attack helicopters to Israel." Furthermore, this NGO has involved itself in politics by using highly suspect medical claims to exaggerate the effect of sonic booms caused by Israeli aircraft attempting to disrupt Palestinian missile attacks from Gaza.
Another organization supported by FDC is the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), whose work includes lectures to international study groups presenting a revisionist history of Jerusalem, reports on "Israeli Occupation Policies" devoid of any reference to Palestinian terror, and support of the Boycott Israeli Goods (BIG) campaign. These activities are outside the terms set by the Finnish Representative Office for its development funds, which state that "aid is directed towards improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people and reforming the Palestinian administration."
In summary, while some of the NGO’s supported by FDC do carry out valuable development work in Palestinian society, there are a number of organizations who receive money from Finland whose work contradicts the official goals of Finnish development cooperation. Such NGOs also contribute to misinformation and hostile and rejectionist attitudes towards the state of Israel, among the international media, diplomatic and development-organization communities.
1. Information for this report was provided by the Finnish Representative Office in Ramallah. Following previous NGO Monitor analyses, the Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv was asked to confirm that they were no longer funding politicized NGO’s previously financed by the Embassy. These have included Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, HaMoked, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the World Organization Against Torture. As of January 26 2006, no response had been received.
13. A letter to Senator Rodham Clinton from Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, ICB. Note that Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW sent a similar letter to Senator Clinton.
18. "Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights Monitoring," Grant awarded 2001 for "A joint fact finding mission of FIDH, the ICJ and the EMHRN to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in order to make an independent, objective and expert assessment of the human rights situation on the ground. Approved 20 000 FIM to a fact finding mission."
22. "A brief history of KIOS," KIOS – The Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights. This information was confirmed in a telephone conversation with KIOS.
24. See "Psychologists for Social Responsibility Launch Campaign Against Israel for Engaging in Psychological Warfare Against Palestinians – Protest to White House: SPME Responds," November 16, 2005 (PDF), and NGO Monitor Digest Vol. 4 No. 4.