Norwegian Funding for Politicized NGOs
Government Funding Analysis: Norway
Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Norwegian Representative Office to the PA and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Summary: Norway is a significant donor of humanitarian and development funds to the Palestinian Authority. However, some of this money is provided to NGOs that are engaged in intense political advocacy campaigns directed against Israel. Such funding contravenes the stated goals of Norway’s development agencies. This report details examples of politicized NGOs funded by Norway, and is similar to NGO Monitor analysis on funding from the EU, the UK, Sweden, and others.
Background: Norwegian Aid to the Palestinians
Funding to NGOs
- Funding for Norwegian NGOs
- Norwegian Funding for International NGOs
- Norwegian Funding for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs
Research note: This report examines Norwegian funding of NGOs active within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A complete list of these NG
Background: Norwegian Aid to the Palestinians
Norwegian development aid is distributed by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and by local Norwegian Embassies. NORAD is a “directorate” under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), making it “politically and technically responsible for Norwegian development cooperation.”
In 2005, Norway gave the Palestinian Authority (PA) NOK 476million (Norwegian Kronor) ($74million) in bilateral development aid, making the PA the third largest recipient of Norwegian aid after Sudan and Pakistan  Norway is also a major contributor to UNWRA. On October 6, 2006, the Norwegian Government announced that it would be increasing its contributions to UNRWA from NOK100 million ($15million) to NOK150 million ($23.5million) as well as increasing its humanitarian aid by $23.5million. The statement said specifically that additional aid was for “humanitarian efforts and peace and reconciliation measures in the region.”
NORAD states that “the purpose of Norwegian development cooperation is to contribute towards lasting improvements in economic, social and political conditions for the populations of developing countries” and “to contribute towards promoting peace, democracy and human rights.” NORAD also states that “the assistance provided to the Palestinian authorities has a clear political dimension since development cooperation is linked to efforts to promote peace in the region, the primary goal being the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Such aid is also meant to develop a democratic society and [to help] lay the foundation for resuming peace negotiations.” Moreover, an MFA paper of June 15, 2006 discussing the role of NGOs in international development stated that “an active civil society is an asset in itself and can form the basis for promoting democracy, human rights and good governance.”
In addition to NORAD, Norwegian Development funds to the PA are channeled via the Norwegian Representative Office to the PA in Ramallah (NRO). This direct development cooperation “was initiated to support the continuation of the peace process through social and economic development and to strengthen Palestinian institutions as a pre-requisite for establishing a democratic Palestinian state.”
Since Hamas has come to power, the USA and many European governments have frozen diplomatic relations and direct support of the PA. In contrast, Norway’s stance on funding to the PA has been ambiguous and unlike the EU, Norway does not officially recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization. On January 4, 2006, Norway stated that “the government has decided that [it] will no longer align itself with any other list [of terrorist organizations] than that published by the UN” since “as neutral facilitator…Norway’s role could become difficult if one of the parties involved [in a peace process] was included on the EU list, and the opportunities for contact were thus restricted.” The UN does not include Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations. However Norway has said on a number of occasions that continued development assistance to the PA is dependent on the PA fulfilling the demands of the “International Quartet” to “renounce violence, recognize the state of Israel and accept previously concluded agreements.”
Funding to NGOs
Of the NOK476million Norway gave the PA in bilateral development aid in 2005, NOK89million ($13.9million) was channeled through Norwegian NGOs, NOK12million ($1.8million) through “local NGOs”, over NOK3.5million ($540,000) through “regional NGOs” and NOK8million ($1.25million) through International NGOs.
Figures for the specific allocation of funds to NGOs in general or individual organizations are not readily available from the MFA, the NRO or NORAD. In response to an enquiry from NGO Monitor, the NRO did provide some information about its NGO funding program. However, specific details, such as the amount of donations to individual NGOs and in which years, were not provided.
As explained below, while some of Norway’s aid to NGOs is channeled to development and humanitarian assistance, significant funding goes to NGOs engaged in political campaigning and advocacy against Israel, and in support of extreme Palestinian demands. This NGO activity often contradicts or works against the goals of the Norwegian Government to “promot[e] democracy, human rights and good governance” and to help “lay the foundation for resuming peace negotiations.”
Funding for Norwegian NGOs
Norwegian Peoples Aid
One of the biggest and most highly regarded of Norway’s humanitarian and development NGOs is Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA). NPA is “the humanitarian organization of the Norwegian trade union movement” and maintains that it is “guided by the values of national and international solidarity, human dignity, freedom and equality.” NPA states that 90% of its funds come from public sources, 45% of which comes directly from the MFA or NORAD. Other donors include the governments of Denmark, Sweden and the EU. Due to the high percentage of public funding, NPA is essentially a quasi-governmental organization (Quango) and not strictly independent of the Norwegian government. NPA states that its work in the Palestinian Authority is financed mostly by NORAD.
While NPA implements many humanitarian projects, other activities are highly political and one-sided, as shown by its publications and campaigns on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It lobbies against Israeli policies in Norwegian and international forums and largely erases Palestinian terrorism as a factor in the conflict.
NPA was a co-signatory and drafter of a joint statement to the Special Sitting of the UN Commission on Human Rights, 15 March – 23 April 2004 convened after the killing of two senior Hamas leaders, Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi. Together with Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and other highly political pro-Palestinian NGOs, NPA condemned Israel’s policy of targeted killings. The NGO statement called Israeli policy “a gross violation of both international human rights and humanitarian law” and claimed Israeli counter-terrorist operations “contribute to the continuation and intensification of a seemingly endless cycle of violence.” The statement did not mention the involvement of Sheikh Yassin and Rantisi in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
NPA publishes a blog on its website written by a Palestinian civilian living in Rafah, providing a highly emotive and one-sided account of events in the area. In an August 2006 press release about the ongoing conflict in Gaza, NPA graphically describes Palestinian injuries and condemns Israel for its "war…[and] aggression against humanity," its "vicious attacks," and "hundreds upon hundreds of people murdered and injured each day." There is no mention in the release of the cross-border attack that resulted in the death of two Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, nor of the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians.
On September 28, 2004, Nils A. Røhne, then head of NPA’s International Department, gave a speech in the Norwegian Parliament. Rohne described Israel as “a brutal occupant” and Palestinian violence as “a fight against oppression and for human worth for all people and peoples.” Rohne quoted former Norwegian Prime Minister Kåre Willoch (who has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and hosted a Hamas official at a private dinner) claiming that “Israel’s politics creates terror. The extremism which Israel is cultivating as if in a greenhouse in the Palestinian areas will spread to the rest of the Arab world.” Rohne ended with a list of demands which the Norwegian government should make from Israel, but made no demand that Palestinians end their campaign of violence against Israeli civilians.
NPA Support of Other NGOs
NPA provides funding and support to other NGOs, many of whom employ politicized rhetoric to attack Israel and are active in the divestment and boycott movement against Israel. For example, the “Stop the Wall Campaign” in Norway lists NPA as one of its most important affiliates in the country. NPA helped promote the campaign’s Autumn 2004 conference entitled “The Apartheid Wall and the future for a Palestinian state.”
NPA provides funds to the Maan Development Center. While Maan generally engages in genuine development work and has implemented many successful projects in Gaza and the West Bank, this work is tarnished by its involvement in campaigns against Israel. For instance, NPA gave $206,875 to fund advocacy, paralegal and media training for one of Maan’s political projects entitled “Right to My Land through Building Capacities of Land Defense Committees.” Although this project had some developmental aspects such as seed distribution, the money is also used to assist the Popular Committees against the Wall & Settlements and the Land Defense Committees to “inform the Palestinian and international public” about their efforts against the “apartheid wall” as well as to coordinate visits with staff of international organizations so that they may “publish stories and/or pictures of their experiences.” Maan has also signed a petition calling for the academic boycott of Israel.
NPA also funds the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE). PACE states that its mission is to promote Palestinian culture through education, cultural heritage preservation, research, and exchange programs. PACE conducts a number of projects such as its “Cultural Heritage Shop”, opened in 2001 to promote Palestinian handicrafts. PACE has also conducted surveys of Palestinian refugees and has published a tour guide of the West Bank and Gaza in English, Arabic and Italian.
PACE’s partners include PARC (mentioned below), it is associated with Haifa University and is also a member of the Palestinian Environment NGOs Network, PENGON, which includes a number of highly politicized NGOs. PACE’s activities do not involve political advocacy and it appears to adhere closely to its remit of promoting Palestinian culture. It is however a signatory to a petition calling for the academic boycott of Israel.
As these examples demonstrate, NPA’s activities and statements, and support for radical agendas do not promote Norwegian government goals of “help[ing] to lay the foundation for resuming peace negotiations” and promoting “peace and reconciliation” in the region.
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) received over $238,000 from the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2005, more than fifteen percent of its budget. IDMC was established in 1998 by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), monitors conflict-induced internal displacement, and advocates on behalf of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In September 2006, IDMC issued a report entitled “Displaced by the Wall: Pilot Study on Forced Displacement Caused by the Construction of the West Bank Wall and its Associated Regimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” This report was supported by and published in conjunction with the NRC and BADIL, a radical Palestinian NGO which promotes claims to a “Right of Return” and provides active support to divestment and boycott campaigns against Israel. This claim is among the most divisive and intractable aspects of the conflict (For a detailed analysis on this issue click here.).
Much of the report is taken up by emotive accounts of Palestinian children and their objection to the Separation Barrier. It labels the construction of the barrier “a crime against humanity” and a “war crime” but fails to weigh the context of widespread Palestinian terrorism that led to the construction of the barrier. While the report calls on the UN to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice; calls on Israel to “dismantle the Wall”; and calls on the PA to advocate for the rights of Palestinian IDPs; it does not call for a halt to the violence against Israeli civilians.
IDMC regularly ignores Israel’s right to security in its human rights analyses. In its twenty-six page overview of IDPs in the PA for 2006 it claims that Israel’s closure policy in the West Bank is one of the main causes of economic crisis in the PA. IDMC also erases Palestinian terrorism and the high level of Palestinian corruption as contributory factors to Palestinian poverty. The overview criticizes the suspension of international aid to the Hamas-led PA, but does not call on the PA to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, or end other obstacles to peace. It also erroneously describes the Separation Barrier as a “670 kilometer-long Wall” even though only about 3% of the barrier is a “wall”. The overview’s sources included Adalah, Al Haq, Amnesty International, BADIL, B’Tselem, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and UNRWA – organizations which have been shown to lack credibility, as documented by NGO Monitor.
Norwegian Funding for International NGOs
Medecins Sans Frontieres
The MFA and NORAD both provide substantial funding to Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF). The MFA donated €6,096,000 to MSF in 2004 (US$7,825,650). €1,012,000 of MFA’s funds went specifically to MSF’s programs in the PA, comprising 83% of MSF’s total budget for this region. In 2004, NORAD also gave €913,000. MSF is active in the Palestinian territories and works with children affected by traumatic stress. However, MSF sometimes departs from its humanitarian aid mandate. For example, in May 2006, MSF criticized the suspension of aid to the Hamas-led PA. MSF’s statement did not call for an end to Palestinian violence nor for the dismantling of terrorist organizations. MSF issued a press release on May 12, 2005, stating that “the direct violence (incursions, shootings, bombings) and indirect violence (occupation, closure, control) have affected the mental health status of the Palestinian population.” The release failed to mention, however, intra-Palestinian violence as a possible cause and misrepresents the Separation Barrier as a "high concrete security wall."
Norwegian Funding for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs
Society Voice Foundation
The NRO finances the Society Voice Foundation (SVC), an organization which does commendable work in promoting reform and a “culture of non-violence and equality” within Palestinian society. SVC held a conference entitled “Societal Peace and Combat Violence in the Palestinian Society [sic]" on February 28, 2006. The final statement of the conference stressed the “importance of conflict resolution inside the authority institutions and showing solidarity without fanaticism.” SVC also runs a “Women’s Empowerment” program which focuses on increasing the “Political, Economical and Social Rights participation” of Palestinian women. NRO’s support of SVC contributes to development and peace building in Palestinian society in accordance with NRO’s objectives.
Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees
The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) receive funds from a number of Norwegian sources. According to PARC, these include NPA and the Royal Norwegian Society for Development. PARC operates a range of agricultural, economic and social projects in the West Bank and Gaza, primarily devoted to rural development. However, the organization also involves itself in political campaigns and frequently issues press statements attacking Israel’s security measures. PARC has accused Israel of deliberately acting to prevent the implementation of the two-state solution among other “crimes.” PARC has also signed petitions calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and the campaign for boycotting Israeli academia.
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza (PCHR) also receives funding from the NRO ($49,330 in 2004). PCHR routinely accuses Israel of committing war crimes, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment and is active in boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel (See detailed NGO Monitor report). Despite its documentation of intra-Palestinian human rights abuses, PCHR is a key proponent of the Durban Strategy.
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme
The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) states that in 2005 it received over $124,000 from the “Norwegian Government.” GCMHP’s mission statement exhibits clear political bias. It says that “Gaza has witnessed extreme forms of violence and suffering, due to Israeli occupation and military operations” which has led, according to GCMHP to “mental health problems in the Gaza reach unprecedented levels [sic].” By ascribing the social problems in Gaza only to the Israeli “occupation,” and ignoring intra-Palestinian violence and corruption, GCMHP illustrates its politicization. This is further highlighted by the political nature of its press releases. On May 11, 2006, GCMHP described Israel’s security measures for Gaza as a “medieval siege.” GCMHP also involves itself in political campaigning. On November 12, 2005, GCMHP hosted a delegation of European Parliamentarians and described to them the “psychological violence” waged by Israel in Gaza and claimed that “the disengagement was a mirage to be consumed by the Western Media.” GCMHP has also signed petitions for economic and academic boycotts of Israel. Once again, Norwegian development funds provided to the GCMHP are being misused for demonization of Israel, which advances neither peace, democracy nor human rights.
Hebron Rehabilitation Committee
The NRO also supports the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee. This organization states that its mission is to “preserve Hebron as an historical Arab Palestinian town, in order to safeguard its cultural and architectural heritage against the threat of a takeover by extremist Israeli settlers.” This NGO is not a human rights organization nor a humanitarian aid organization but rather a clearly political group whose goal it is to influence the status of the city of Hebron. HRC boasts that “prohibited buildings were restored secretly and behind closed doors and states that one of its primary goals is “reviving and strengthening the Palestinian presence in the Old City through a repopulation policy compatible with cultural heritage protection and community needs.” HRC ignores the historical Jewish connection to the city of Hebron, including the second holiest site in Judaism. HRC also does not mention the Arab riots of the 1920s and the massacre of many of Hebron’s Jewish residents. MFA and NORAD state that the main goal of Norwegian development assistance is to contribute towards reducing poverty and peace building. It is hard to see how support to HRC furthers these goals.
In 2004, the NRO provided MIFTAH with over $68,000. MIFTAH claims to be a “non-partisan Jerusalem-based institution dedicated to fostering democracy and good governance within Palestinian society.” Despite its claim to be “non-governmental and non-partisan,” Hanan Ashrawi is the head of MIFTAH’s Executive Committee and Mustafa Barghouti is on its board. Both are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Eyad Al-Sarraj, the President and Director General of GCMHP and Raji Sourani, the current Director of PCHR are also members of the board.
MIFTAH states that its objectives are to provide “a forum for innovative public discourse” and that one of its main goals is “increasing global awareness and knowledge of Palestinian realities by providing policy analysis, strategic briefings and position papers.” One such paper is an article published April 20, 2006 which described a suicide bomber who killed eleven people on April 17, 2006 as “innocent.” The article stated that the bombing “took nine innocent Israeli lives and one innocent Palestinian life”, described Israeli policy as “state terrorism” and called U.S. insistence on the PA to prevent terrorist attacks an “unachievable demand.” MIFTAH often uses inflammatory terminology in describing Israel’s security measures and says that Israeli policy “fulfils all elements of the crime of apartheid.” MIFTAH denounced the U.S. Congressional bill HR 4681 (Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006) blocking aid to the Hamas-run PA. MIFTAH described the bill as “unjustified” and “collective punishment.” Miftah’s lobbying activities and promotion of a rejectionist narrative contradicts the NRO’s claim to “contribute to the process of promoting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
B’Tselem lists the MFA as one of its donors. B’Tselem is a self-declared partisan organization and states that it seeks to change Israeli policy.While B’Tselem is viewed as an important element in maintaining open debate on human rights practices in Israel despite the environment of terrorism and violent conflict, the use of B’Tselem’s partisan reporting by other NGOs, the media, and the UN is highly problematic. These organizations and news sources often omit context and background information, and present B’Tselem’s reports as apolitical and unbiased human rights reporting.
As a result, B’Tselem has become a convenient tool to paint an inaccurate and sensationalized picture of popular dissent within Israel against the government, and to distort Israel’s human rights record as part of the campaign of demonization and delegitimation associated with the Durban Strategy. By providing funding to B’tselem, Norway participates in this process.
Via the MFA, NORAD and the NRO, Norway does provide funds for important development work among Palestinians. However, as shown above, money has also been provided to many politicized Palestinian and international lobbying groups. NORAD openly admits that its Palestinian aid has "a clear political dimension," but the rejectionist narrative and radical political campaigns promoted by some of these NGOs, go beyond analyzing the political solutions to the conflict, and contradict the objectives which the government sets out for Norwegian development aid. These include the "the establishment of a Palestinian state” as the "primary goal," and “lay[ing] the foundation for resuming peace negotiations,” neither of which are furthered by the NGO activities described in this report. The goal of "promoting democracy, human rights and good governance" is also hindered by the financing of NGO campaigns that focus on external attacks against Israel, and ignore Palestinian human rights abuses, corruption, and factional violence.
1. Source: Annual Report on Norwegian Bilateral Development Cooperation for 2005. Between 1994 and 2004, Norway donated NOK3.2 billion ($524m) in aid to the Palestinian Authority (excluding the annual support of NOK100m ($15m) to UNRWA).
2. The UN only lists Al Qaeda and the Taliban as terrorist organizations, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1267. There is no comprehensive list of UN-designated international terrorist organizations.
3. For the year 2004, NPA’s operating income was NOK719 million ($117 million). Of this, $31m, (26%) came from the MFA and $19.9m (17%), from Norad. . For the year 2005, NPA’s operating income was NOK 731 million ($119 million). Of this, $42 million (35%) came from the MFA and $17.3 million (14%) from Norad.
4. NPA received $17,000,000 from USAID although it states that the majority of this is used for its work in Darfur, Sudan. NPA also received other significant financial donations from the US Department of State, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs and The Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA).