Aid reform: Palestinians Do Have Rights in the Aid Process

Nora Lester Murad, Dalia Association

Nora Lester Murad is an independent researcher & con-
sultant living in East Jerusalem. She's originally from
the US. She works with Palestinian Non-Governmental
Organizations, International Non-Governmental Organi-
zations, and multilateral organizations.

Palestinian civil society initiates campaign to reform international aid in run up to Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.

Ramallah, Palestine — Dalia Association and other Palestinian NGOs join the global movement for aid reform by launching a campaign to enable Palestinians to claim their rights to self-determination in development. Palestinians' rights to self-determination are already denied by occupation, colonization and dispossession. Campaign organizers argue that international aid, which is supposed to help, should not be delivered in ways that further undermine local priorities, capacities, ownership and rights.

Dalia Association considers advocacy to reform the international aid system among its core objectives because aid-dependence undermines self-reliance, philanthropy and local decision-making, which are core objectives of community foundations. However, this campaign is Dalia Association’s first effort to seek support around the world.

“The campaign aims to raise awareness among Palestinians and internationals that we do have rights in the aid process and that respect for these rights is tied to development effectiveness,” says Saeeda Mousa, Dalia Association’s acting executive director. “We also want to cultivate tangible support for aid reform among southern civil society organizations and northern allies. This is the first step in a longer process of engaging constructively with donors and international NGOs to change the policies and practices that perpetuate aid dependence and disempower local civil society.”

The advocacy campaign began with the launch of Dalia Association’s research with community-based organizations entitled, Appeal by Palestinian Civil Society to the International Community to Respect Our Right to Self-Determination in the Aid System. The report expresses the complaints and recommendations of grassroots civil society in Palestine and gives rare and valuable insight into how recipients experience the aid system.

Specifically, participants in Dalia Association’s research objected that:

1. Most donors fund relief, not development;
2. Use of intermediaries can harm local civil society’s effectiveness and sustainability;
3. International aid organizations often impose unrealistic and unfair procedures;
4. Many international aid organizations impose agendas rather than respond to local ones;
5. Applying for grants often takes too much time and effort;
6. Proposals and reports usually cannot be in Arabic, which is the local language;
7. Most donors fund using political criteria;
8. Many funding schemes are designed not to cover all costs;
9. There is insufficient local leadership in agenda-setting and decision-making;
10. Anti-terrorism clauses are unacceptable; and
11. Aid actors do not always fulfill their contractual obligations.

Workshop participants also made recommendations about how to improve the international aid system. These included:

1. Select and evaluate civil society grantees fairly and transparently;
2. Fulfill commitments;
3. Respect local priorities and capacities;
4. Follow up…genuinely;
5. Don’t fund through unprofessional intermediaries;
6. Give aid on professional, not political, criteria;
7. Make the aid process more accessible and less burdensome;
8. Enable sustainability through longer and more flexible funding; and
9. Invest in local capacity, not in INGOs at Palestinians’ expense.

Changes like these will not only directly improve aid programs, but leverage local insight and capacity, thus providing donors with greater value for their contributions.

The campaign also includes circulation of a PETITION to Palestinians and allies all over the world, release of two forthcoming short films highlighting grassroots voices, and cooperation with other NGOs, donors and international NGOs to innovate solutions to the problems identified.

The campaign is timed to correspond with the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea at the end of November. The High Level Forum is the most influential venue for global discussions about aid policy; the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action being the outcomes of the last two Forums.

“Participating in the High Level Forum is a huge honor and responsibility,” says Saeeda Mousa. Dalia Association is the only Palestinian NGO participating and only one of eight civil society representatives from the Arab world. Dalia Association will be exhibiting its innovations in local-international cooperation to the 2500 global aid policymakers, speaking on a panel about aid to conflict areas in the civil society forum, and facilitating a cross-sectoral workshop about reforming aid on the main agenda of the global meeting. Dalia Association previously signed on to Better Aid’s “CSO Key Asks” and the Make Aid Transparent Campaign.

Although Palestine’s political context is unique, the challenges it faces as a result of aid dependence are similar to the challenges faced in other aid-dependent regions. For this reason, both the problems – and the solutions – uncovered by the campaign in Palestine should be of interest across the globe. “We encourage our international allies to read and disseminate the report and sign the petition. We also invite civil societies in other aid-dependent regions to contact us at with ideas about how we can cooperate in this effort,” says Saeeda Mousa. Interested parties can also subscribe to eNews from Dalia Association.

Dalia Association is a Palestinian community foundation established by members of the Palestinian community from the West Bank Gaza Strip, Israel, and the Diaspora.

Dalia Association:

Makes grants to support inspirational and relevant civil society initiatives, especially grassroots efforts that seek to supplement local resources. Community-controlled grantmaking increases the transparency, accountability, and professionalism of local initiatives.

Links resources by introducing people with expertise, ideas, contacts, equipment, and other assets to community activists who can use them to serve their communities. Effectively utilizing resources that already exist in our abundant community helps decrease our dependence on outside resources.

Encourages giving by locals, companies, and refugee and Diaspora Palestinians. We revive local traditions of philanthropy and volunteerism and create new systems that make giving easier, safer and more trustworthy. A permanent endowment will be built over time to ensure sustainable income for current and future generations.

Advocates for systemic change in the international aid system so that it respects Palestinian rights and responds to local priorities. Advocacy includes constructive engagement with innovative donors who want a local partner to help them improve their policies and maximize their impact.

Published here: Dalia Association
Dalia Association: Who We Are
Dalia Association: Advocacy: Advocacy for Rights.pdf


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