Dalia Association, Palestine’s first and only community foundation, recently launched an advocacy campaign to address the issues facing grassroots civil society as recipients of international aid in Palestine. Nora Lester Murad, Dalia’s founder and former executive director, shares the organization’s progress and the questions they face going forward.
We at Dalia Association in Palestine have an interesting challenge. We produced a report highlighting grassroots civil society’s experiences with international aid in Palestine. (Read the report here.) The report prioritizes our complaints about the international aid system, which include:
1. Most donors fund relief, not development.
2. Intermediaries often harm local civil society’s effectiveness and sustainability.
3. International aid organizations impose unrealistic and unfair procedures.
4. International aid organizations impose agendas rather than respond to local ones.
5. Applying for funds 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 certification is unacceptable.
11. Aid actors do not always fulfill their contractual obligations.
The report also prioritizes our recommendations for change, which include:
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.
9. Invest in local capacity, not in INGOs at Palestinians’ expense.
This is already a huge accomplishment. We are promoting local dialogue about Palestinian rights to self-determination in the aid process, and grassroots activists are overcoming the fear of speaking openly that comes from dependence. Most importantly, we are engaging in problem-solving, not just complaining.
But now we’re a bit stuck. Dalia Association will be attending the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness – one of only eight civil society organizations from the Arab world! We want to take full advantage of this opportunity to influence policy, but we struggle with knowing just how to do so.
Are there allies out there who would sign a petition or endorse a statement supporting our campaign? If so, should it say:
“We appeal to the international development community to respect Palestinian civil society’s rights to self-determination in the development cooperation process.” (This one is aimed at international delegates and is quite general.)
“We signatories support Palestinian’s right to self-determination in development, and therefore commit to make all efforts possible to reduce dependence on international aid and engage in multi-stakeholder efforts to reform aid to respect local rights and priorities.” (This one is a pledge that obligates the signatories, more specific in terms of actions to be taken.)
“We appeal to all development actors to join us in realizing Palestinians’ right to self-determination in development by fighting dependence on aid and reforming aid to respect local rights and priorities.”
And, would you be willing to forward and share information about our campaign to your circles and networks, feature it on your blogs, or get the word out in other ways?
Would you advise us, volunteer for our campaign, support us through other means?
We know that people “out there” support us morally. Our question to you is: How can allies help Palestinians reform international aid in practical ways that move our cause forward?
Please share your comments, ideas, and feedback and get in touch at noralestermurad (at) gmail (dot) com!
Dalia Association runs “community-controlled grantmaking” programs that increase the transparency, accountability and professionalism of local initiatives. It mobilizes and links resources to decrease dependence on international aid and promotes philanthropy through culture change and development of funding mechanisms. Dalia Association also advocates for systemic change in the international aid system.
For additional reading on aid in Palestine, see:
(2) Matrix of Control: The Impact of Conditional Funding on Palestinian NGOs, a position paper from the MA’AN Development Center, and
(3) Restricting AID: The Challenges of Delivering Assistance in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a report from the Association of International Development Agencies in Jerusalem.