On January 28, 2020 , the Development and Cooperation department (EDA) of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) published “Cooperation with non-governmental organizations in partner countries of international cooperation,” a review of funding to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The evaluation was conducted following a motion presented by Swiss MP Christian Imark, on September 25, 2018.
The FDFA was required to present this report to the Federal Council by April 2019. However the final report was only presented in January 2020.
NGO Monitor’s review of the EDA’s report shows that the evaluation fails to effectively and impartially analyze the distribution of Swiss funds. Instead, the evaluation relies on the self-reporting and opinions of Swiss government grantees.
Furthermore, the evaluation does not address the core questions that inspired the mandated review, namely, funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) “involved in racist anti-Semitic or inflammatory activities.”
In 2013-2017, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs received Swiss funding through the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (Secretariat), a joint NGO mechanism of the governments of Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden.
In 2017-2018, the Swiss government provided over CHF 12 million in direct and indirect funding to NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Many of these NGOs fail to promote Swiss interests and foreign policy in the region, including promoting peace and a two-state framework. Some of these groups even promote antisemitic rhetoric and have notable ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a designated terrorist organization by the EU, US, Canada, and Israel.
In January 2017, the Swiss government denied requests from a concerned Swiss citizen and NGO Monitor to provide public information about Swiss funding to NGOs in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The government’s response claimed that “access to official documents is likely to affect the interests of Switzerland in matters of foreign policy and international relations.”
Analysis of EDA Evaluation
NGO Monitor notes the following flaws in the EDA report. The evaluation:
- Quotes and cites NGOs that receive funding from the Swiss government, but does not evaluate these organizations in the report. This creates an inherent conflict of interest and reflects a faulty research methodology.
- Does not address “anti-Semitic or inflammatory activities” by grantees, the very issues that sparked the evaluation in the first place.
- Fails to review problematic funding practices, such as support to organizations with ideologies and goals inconsistent with Swiss foreign policy.
The EDA evaluation of Swiss funding is methodologically flawed and leaves many core questions unanswered. The catalyst for the evaluation – lack of due diligence as demonstrated in funding diverted to “anti-Semitic or inflammatory activities” – was not addressed in the review. Swiss funding to organizations supporting BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns was also ignored.
Notably, the evaluation’s reliance on NGOs funded by the Swiss federal government as credible, objective sources of information violates the basic requirements of good governance.
An independent evaluation, with in-depth research conducted by individuals with no connection to the Swiss government or any of its grantees, is necessary in order to impartially assess Swiss federal government funding to NGOs.