Analysis of NGO Funding: UK Department for International Development (DFID)
Summary: DFID is the “part of the UK Government that manages Britain’s aid to poor countries and works to get rid of extreme poverty”. In the Middle East, DFID claims to reduce Palestinian poverty by encouraging development, but significant funding goes towards politicised NGOs that campaign on external agendas as opposed to internal development, and use their status to demonize Israel.
As the UK’s principal agency for providing international development and humanitarian aid, DFID exists outside the framework of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and has its own foreign policy in the areas in which it operates. The large sums which it distributes (£3,838m in 2004/5) gives the DFID significant influence in these areas, and in providing resources for NGOs and their agendas.
DFID distributes money in 3 ways: through multilateral organisations such as the EU and the World Bank, bilaterally to countries via Country Assistance Plans (CAPs), and through agreements directly with NGOs. For UK NGOs, this direct assistance mainly takes the form of long-term Partnership Programme Agreements (PPAs).
DFID has financially significant PPAs with a number of British NGOs that operate in the Middle East, including Oxfam (£20m since 2001), Christian Aid (£10.05m since 2001) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) (£0.8m since 2004). These PPAs last an average of 3-5 years and “funding is unrestricted, which means that [DFID] do not require partners to account for the expenditure in their accounts. Neither do [they] ‘stipulate’ how the funds are spent or allocated by the partners in support of their strategic programmes”.
Although these PPAs and other programs under DFID are justified as promoting development and peace, the activities are not consistent with such claims. For example, Christian Aid’s activities related to the Palestinian-Israel conflict have been shown to be systematically political in nature, without visible impact on humanitarian and development goals. UK government funding for Christian Aid is also sent from there to radical Palestinian and anti-Israel NGOs, such as LAW, Sabeel, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. DFID recently agreed a new PPA with Christian Aid worth £5m per year for the next 3 years again with no restrictions on how the money will be spent. The department has also renewed and increased its funding commitment with Oxfam, an NGO with a history of political attacks on Israel, and a supporter of extremist Palestinian NGOs such as Badil.
PPAs with such organisations directly contradict DFID’s goals of development for poverty relief, which require an internal focus on assisting Palestinian development, rather than externally directed agendas based on demonization of Israel. Such NGOs ignore local Palestinian causes of poverty such as leadership corruption, and therefore further impede their capacity for self help. This negates a key aim of DFID which is to “reduce how much [a] country relies on overseas aid.” Furthermore, through its support of Sabeel, Christian Aid’s name has been linked to the divestment campaign, a clear attempt to demonize Israel. Thus DFID is helping to fuel a campaign to isolate Israel internationally, in opposition to the British Government (Link has expired), which “believes that… constructive engagement with Israel is the best approach to exert influence on it.”
DFID’s funding of ODI, a supposedly “independent think tank on humanitarian and development policy”, is a further example of a humanitarian remit being misused to make externally focussed attacks against Israel. The ODI runs the Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN), “an independent forum where field workers, managers and policymakers in the humanitarian sector share information, analysis and experience”. However, in reality, instead of a positive and constructive role in development, the HPN provides a platform for an extreme pro-Palestinian position in the reports it promotes on its website. For example, one report (“Why humanitarian assistance is not a long-term solution in the OPT”) completely ignores the issue of Palestinian terrorism, claims that the security barrier is “contrary to international humanitarian law,” and that Israel “provoked the general collapse of the Palestinian economy”. Another article on “Mental Health needs in Palestine” blames Israel for nearly all mental health problems in the territories. It describes how “[a]s men lose faith and confidence in the face of their traumatic experiences, women often bear the brunt in physical abuse” and “husbands are often absent, whether for work in Israel, in Israeli detention or dead, or suffering from the effects of trauma.” The article concludes that “there is a need for political action to ease the environmental factors that contribute to mental problems… to …end the occupation.” (Note that DFID has agreed to give the ODI £1.07m per year for the next 3 years.)
DFID also funds Palestinian NGOs directly though its “Country Assistance Plan” (CAP). The department’s total funding commitment to the Palestinians was raised from £25m to £40m in 2005/6, due to “the increasing poverty existent within Palestinian Society.” However, other than £1,201,904 for the highly politicised Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and “a large amount …to the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit,” DFID does not openly declare the names of the organisations which it funds. The CAP budget describes £400,000 given to “small community based projects,” and £1,060,000 spent on “mostly NGO service delivery projects.” NGO Monitor has requested more detailed information on specific NGOs funding by DFID, but have not yet been able to elicit a response.
DFID’s funding for the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit (NSU) is highly problematic. The NSU is a political framework established in 1998 to “provide highly professional legal, policy and communications advice to the [Palestinian] Negotiations Affairs Department and Palestinian negotiators in preparation for, and during Permanent Status negotiations with Israel”. However, since the cessation of formal peace talks, the NSU has focused its energies on advocacy activities. The NSU was instrumental in bringing the issue of the security barrier to the International Court of Justice at The Hague and it is an integral part of Palestinian propaganda. (Daniel Schwammenthal, "The PLO’s European Paymasters", Wall Street Journal Europe, 2 March 2004, A12) The extreme bias and vilification of Israel on the NSU website demonstrates that DFID funds (£1.5m 2004/05) for development are being spent on political campaigning.
In its Country Assistance Plan for the Palestinian Authority, the DFID states: “We will maintain a poverty perspective in all we do, and will press the partners we fund to specifically target…the poorest Palestinians.” But as this report shows, large amounts of this funding are not being used to combat poverty or facilitate internal development of Palestinian society. Instead, DFID funds are financing UK charities’ anti-Israel campaigning and are filtering through to radical Palestinian NGOs whose primary goals are to demonize Israel.
For more information see NGO Monitor’s update report on DFID