Ramallah, Palestine—Dalia Association joins 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. Dalia Association, a long-time GFCF grantee, argues that international aid, which is supposed to help, should not be delivered in ways that further undermine local priorities, capacities and ownership.
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 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 clause is 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.
“Representing Dalia Association at the High Level Forum is a huge honor and responsibility,” says Nora Lester Murad, a volunteer. 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 on 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 with ideas about how we can cooperate in this effort,” says Saeeda Mousa. Interested parties can subscribe to eNews from Dalia Association.
(An e-poster produced by the Dalia Association, which presents the community foundation as a mechanism for international support of locally accountable development, was among those selected to be played at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea at the end of November 2011. To see the e-poster click here).