As the foreign aid branch of the Canadian government, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funds many NGOs around the world. CIDA officials claim that the selection is based on criteria that reflect government priorities for international development. However, funding for numerous ideological organizations with documented anti-Israel agendas and activities suggests other factors, as well as a lack of oversight, are involved. Although NGO Monitor’s detailed analyses show that since 2005, CIDA’s support for extremist political groups has decreased, funding continues for a number of NGOs engaged in anti-Israel campaigning. This group includes Al Haq, Alternatives, Médecins du Monde, Oxfam and the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada. 

CIDA Funding: Overview
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is “Canada’s lead agency for development assistance.” Its stated mandate is “to support sustainable development in developing countries in order to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world.” In order to achieve these goals, CIDA distributes funds to developing countries. It also provides humanitarian assistance through various United Nations agencies and NGOs; of the $297.8 million allocated by CIDA for humanitarian assistance in 2005-6, $71.9 million were channeled through NGOs (Statistical Report on Official Development Assistance, 2005-6, page 21). CIDA has not released complete information beyond 2005-6, but did provide details on funding for specific NGOs through 2006-7. 

Although CIDA focuses the majority of its aid on Sub-Saharan Africa, in 2005-6, 4.6% of its budget was allocated to North Africa and the Middle East, totaling $129 million. The West Bank and Gaza are listed among the top 30 recipients (ahead of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and others), receiving $28.47 million from CIDA in 2005-6, in addition to $1.6 million from other Canadian aid departments, for a total of $30.07 million in bilateral assistance (Statistical Report on Official Development Assistance, 2005-6, page 40).

This increase in funding is notable. Even though Hamas appears on Canada’s list of terrorist organizations, CIDA acknowledges that it has channeled more funds in bilateral disbursement through the United Nations to the Palestinians since Hamas’ electoral victory ($29.3 million in 2006-7) than in previous years when the Fatah party headed the Palestinian Authority.

These figures are made readily available by CIDA, in an attempt at transparency. CIDA publishes an annual Statistical Report on Official Development Assistance, listing the beneficiary governments and NGOs, as well as the sums of the grants allocated to them. However, contracts below $10,000 are not disclosed, omitting smaller grants to politicized NGOs from its reports. For instance, according to Al Haq’s Annual Report for 2005, it received US $8,541 from CIDA  (page 11). Describing itself as “a Palestinian human rights organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” Al Haq has accused Israel of “violat[ing] the fundamental international humanitarian law principles of distinction between combatants and civilians, proportionality in attack, and military necessity.” This ECOSOC-accredited organization actively participated in the 2001 World Conference against Racism, where the “Durban Strategy” of demonization of Israel was formulated by the NGO Forum.

CIDA has somewhat modified its funding policies following criticism raised by a 2005 NGO Monitor report, which showed that CIDA supports Canadian and international NGOs engaged in hostile political campaigns against Israel – including Alternatives, BADIL, Doctors without Borders, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Médecins du Monde, the Mennonite Central Committee, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision . This change coincides with the appointment of a new CIDA head, Margaret Biggs, in June 2008, as “the agency is facing criticism from all sides and pressure to shift direction and overhaul the way it delivers its aid and development programs.”

Anti-Israel NGOs that continue to receive CIDA funds

  • Alternatives: In 2006-7, Alternatives received $2,744,923 from CIDA in four different types of grants (2006-2007 Public Accounts of Canada, pp. 72, 84, 91, 118). This amount represents about half its annual budget, with the rest donated by individuals and partner organizations. Alternatives engages in a wide variety of highly ideological activities in Canada, under the banner of its proclaimed focus on civil, political, economic, social, and human rights. This domestic advocacy is unceasingly hostile to Israel, and regularly refers to Israel as an “apartheid” regime while downplaying Palestinian human rights abuses and ignoring Palestinian terrorism. Alternatives is also involved in partnerships and funds political activities abroad, including Israel and the West Bank. On February 12, 2008, Alternatives advertised a Tadamon! event on its website, promoting “the campaign for Boycott, Sanctions & Divestment of the apartheid Israeli state & the campaign to challenge the listing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization by the Canadian government.”
  • Médecins du Monde: In 2006-7, Médecins du Monde (MdM) received $349,270 from CIDA (2006-2007 Public Accounts of Canda, pp. 87, 93). A self-proclaimed “humanitarian medical NGO,” MdM engages in the demonization of Israel and ignores its legitimate security concerns. MdM’s bias and adoption of the Palestinian narrative was demonstrated in a joint NGO report (with Amnesty International, Trocaire, CAFOD, CARE, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children Alliance), “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion.” As NGO Monitor has documented, this report contains factual mistakes and misrepresentations of international humanitarian law. 
  • Mennonite Central Committee of Canada: In 2006-7, the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada (MCC) received $3,997,518 from CIDA (2006-2007 Public Accounts of Canda, pp. 88, 93, 123, 135). MCC portrays itself as “a relief, service, and peace agency of the North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches.” NGO Monitor has documented the MCC’s active participation in boycott and divestment campaigns.  MCC also partners with radical anti-Israel NGOs, including BADIL, Sabeel, the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), and the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (PGAAWC). In addition to leadership roles in boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), these groups use demonizing language – such as “apartheid” – to isolate and condemn Israel.
  • Oxfam: In 2006-7, the provincial and national branches of Oxfam received  $25,807,150 in grants from CIDA (Oxfam-Quebec: $18,889,898; Oxfam-Canada: $6,917,252; 2006-2007 Public Accounts of Canda, pp. 73, 83, 86, 89, 93, 95, 224). Although Oxfam-Quebec engages in substantive development work in the PA – particularly job training and empowerment programs for women – it partners with biased NGOs, including BADIL and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO).
        The Canadian branches of Oxfam belong to a worldwide confederation, Oxfam-International. Oxfam-International has lobbied the UK government to put “highest diplomatic pressure” on Israel, in order to change its Gaza policy. In its March 2008 report, The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion, Oxfam accuses Israel of “collective punishment” and “violations of international humanitarian law” (pages 5-6, 15).

Changes in CIDA´s NGO funding program for 2006-7
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ): In 2005-6, CIDA allocated $0.32 million to ICJ (Statistical Report on Official Development Assistance, page 34). ICJ, which is based in Geneva, claims to be “dedicated to the primacy, coherence and implementation of international law and principles that advance human rights.” However, in its anti-Israel campaigns, ICJ exploits the rhetoric of international law, accusing Israel of “indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in violation of international humanitarian law. The direct and willful targeting of the civilian population, its means of subsistence, and its infrastructure, violate international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes according to customary international humanitarian law.” ICJ also works closely with many core anti-Israel NGOs. ICJ did not receive a monetary grant from CIDA in 2006-7.

Alternative Information Center (AIC): As of September 15, 2007, the Alternative Information Center (Jerusalem) is listed as one of Alternatives’ many partners. AIC´s activities reflect an extreme anti-Israel political agenda, including support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. AIC actively participates in the demonization of Israel at international forums, has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, and published inflammatory articles minimizing the actions of convicted terrorists. According to the records filed by AIC with the Registrar of Non-profit Organizations, in 2005 AIC received $17,785 (59,985 New Israeli Shekels**) from Alternatives, a beneficiary of CIDA, but it was no longer funded by Alternatives in 2006.

Although it has recently reduced some of its funding to politicized NGOs that fuel the Arab-Israeli conflict instead of promoting peace and stability, CIDA continues to fund such groups. The use of Canadian federal funds for hostile ideological campaigns against Israel that exploit human rights rhetoric is inconsistent with CIDA’s official funding objectives and Canadian values of “global citizenship, equity and environmental sustainability.”

*Unless noted otherwise, the currency used in this report refers to Canadian dollars.

** Exchange rate calculated on August 14, 2008 by

NGO Monitor sent this report to CIDA officials for comment, but received no response.