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Monthly Archives: March 2014

In order to explore local perceptions on the various aspects of foreign funding, a set of semi-structured interviews held with relevant stakeholders from civil society, political parties and the media conducted in 2012 by an Egyptian NGO (Arab Forum for Alternatives).[i] Assessing the positive (see original source) and negative aspects of foreign funding provided (to civil society organizations) in Egypt, the author, M. Elagati collected the following main arguments raised against aid: donors forcing a specific agenda onto the general work of the organization; unwillingness amongst CSOs (civil society organizations) to reveal sources and amounts of foreign funding, as well as the conditions under which it was granted; donor intervention in the work of these organizations; creating ‘local agents’ for the donor states’ vested interests; foreign funding inciting the creation of projects by local NGOs only for the sake of securing funding; the risk of civil society corruption and the creation of a new class of Egyptians working with foreign organizations that depend on foreign money; abundant foreign funding reducing Egyptian CSOs’ preparedness to search for local sources of funding, thus weakening the development of local alternatives; the risk of a long-term structural dependence of Egyptian NGOs on foreign funding (Elagati 2013). The list is neither representative, nor full, but (a) it reflects the reality of conditions and the manipulated nature of opinions to a great extent, (b) recalls the Palestinian perceptions on foreign aid (discussed in earlier posts).

[i] The semi-structured personal interviews were conducted in December 2012 in Cairo by the Arab Forum for Alternatives: in order to examine the local vision of foreign funds, a sample of 30 people involved in the various fields associated with foreign funding (10 from civil society, 5 from political parties, 5 from the media, 5 from funding organizations and 5 from relevant government institutions) were interviewed. The meetings attempted to explore their opinions on funding in general, the extent of their knowledge on the subject, and their opinions on funding-related issues, whether regarding funding for media, politics, or CSOs in Egypt (Elagati 2013).

Elagati, M. (2013) Foreign Funding in Egypt After the Revolution. FRIDE, Arab Forum for Alternatives and HIVOS, http://www.fride.org/download/WP_EGYPT.pdf (12-01-2014)

It was perpahs in December last year, that the EU first offered „unprecedented” political and economic aid as an incentive to push Israel and the Palestinians into resolving their decades-old conflict and to promise them better access to European markets. As repeated by EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton in Munich at the beginning of February the EU would give an ’unprecedented package’ of aid to Israel and Palestine if they reach a peace accord. She spoke after a meeting of the Middle East ’Quartet’ trying to support Israeli-Palestinian talks. To complete the picture, a sort of blackmailing was also in the air illustrated by Lars Faaborg-Andersen’s words (EU ambassador to Israel): “We have made it clear to the parties that there will be a price to pay if these negotiations falter.” Most Palestinians disliked this message. Ordinary people feel in humiliating – cf. the causes of the ‘Arab Spring’ as analyzed by Telhami, S. (2013) The World Through Arab Eyes –  their leaders find it highly, perhaps even increasingly risky. As formulated by Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the PLO executive committee: that “any Palestinian leader budging under financial pressure from the US or EU would lose public support, and if and when this happens, that leader is finished.” These perceptions have not found their way to Brussels so far.

An even more creative offer was formulated last week: the EU would be willing to provide financial compensation for Palestinian refugees and their descendants who renounce their ’right of return’ in a final peace deal with Israel. It appears to be the first time that a senior EU official, Faaborg-Andersen, publicly announced-endorsed such an offer. This will likely be part of the framework (see previous paragraph) of an “unprecedented new partnership” offered to Israelis and Palestinians if they sign a permanent peace treaty. As reiterated by Faaborg-Andersen, Brussels would be willing to significantly upgrade commercial and trade cooperation with both sides – provided that they will finally be ready to forget their history and look ahead. Assuming  good intentions, the EU somehow fails to acknowledge that money, let it be aid, can spoil man and ruin relationships as well.

Ahren, R. (2014) EU ready to pay Palestinians who renounce right of return. The Times of Israel, http://www.timesofisrael.com/eu-ready-to-pay-palestinians-who-renounce-right-of-return/  Jerusalem, 24 March 2014

Amayreh, K. (2014) Palestinians denounce ‘financial blackmail’. by Al Jazeera,   http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/01/palestinians-denounce-financial-blackmail-2014129131614744621.html, Hebron, 31 January 2014

Reuters (2013) EU offers ‘unprecedented’ aid to help Israeli-Palestinian talks. Brussels, 16 December 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/16/us-palestinians-israel-eu-idUSBRE9BF1BC20131216

EUObserver (2014) EU repeats offer of ‘unprecedented’ aid for Israel and Palestine. Munich, 01 February 2014, http://euobserver.com/tickers/122970

“It is now clear that all countries in the region, and all authoritarian regimes elsewhere, have to pay much more attention to the democratic aspirations and well-being of their populations.” (Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, February 28, 2011). The ‘Arab Spring’ made the West – the EU in particular – realize that public opinion can play a critical role in political and electoral development even in the Middle East by reaffirming the importance of democratic representation. Newly formulated EU (aid) policies stress the need to respect public opinion and to support the demand for political participation, dignity and freedom (COM 2011a; COM 2011b; COM 2011c), reintroducing the ‘sticks and carrot’ method of conditionality in form of the ‘more for more’ principle for supporting effective transitions to democracy (Balfour 2012; Tocci 2013).

In harmony with European public opinion (see previous posts), the EU aims at supporting political transition (towards democracy), economic transition (to real market economy) as well as developing contacts between various segments of the (civil) societies in addition to enhancing regional cooperation. The so called ‘partnership for democracy and shared prosperity’ is said to be mutually beneficial (in terms of trade and economic relations). The new approach is based on a the following principles: joint and shared commitment (to common values, such as democracy, human rights, social justice, good governance, rule of law), mutual accountability (or clarity on respective commitments), differentiation (being more adaptive to specific country needs and circumstances) and last but not least the partnership is utterly ‘incentive based’. This latter is about providing ‘greater support to partners engaged in building deep democracy’. It is explicitly worded in the documents that ‘the more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU’ (COM 2011b: 3). However, not only foreign aid is channeled selectively to countries in the region, but conditions are also applied selectively. To take only three examples, conditions attached to foreign aid are (i) perceived, but officially non-applied in Palestine (ECA 2013b), (ii) openly applied in Egypt (ECA 2013a; EEAS/EC 2013 and EEAS/EC 2014 Conclusions), and (iii) simply ‘invisible’ in Jordan, where the term ‘condition’ has been replaced by ‘benchmark’ in official communications.

Balfour, R. (2012) EU Conditionality after the Arab Spring. IEMed papers #16. European Institute of the Mediterranean, Barcelona

COM (2011a) A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Responsibility with the Southern Mediterranean. Joint Communication to the European Council, the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. March 8, 2011, Brussels: European Commission

COM (2011b) A new response to a changing Neighbourhood. Joint Communication to the Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. May 25, 2011, Brussels: European Commission

COM (2011c) Support for partnership, reforms and inclusive growth (SPRING) 2011-2012 in favour of the southern Neighbourhood region to be financed under Article 19 08 01 01 of the general budget of the European Union. Commission Implementing Decision of Sept 26, 2011, Brussels: European Commission

ECA (2013a) European cooperation with Egypt in the field of governance. Special Report 4/2013, European Court of Auditors,

ECA (2013b) European Union Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority. Special Report 14/2013, European Court of Auditors,

EEAS/EC (2013) Council conclusions on Egypt. The Council of the European Union, Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 21 August 2013,

EEAS/EC (2014) Council conclusions on Egypt. The Council of the European Union, Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 10 February 2014

Füle, S. (2011) Speech on the recent events in North Africa. European Commission – SPEECH/11/130, press release, 28/02/2011, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-11-130_en.htm (12-02-2014)

Tocci, N. (2013) EU and the Arab Spring. Seminar with Nathalie Tocci from the Istituto Affari Internazionali on the EU’s response to the Arab spring, NUPI, 11 April, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9NMfhU4rdo

 

The substance of democracy depends to a large extent on the free and fair dissemination of information and ideas. The link between freedom of speech and expression, so to say public opinion on the one hand and democracy on the other hand was explored by Alexander Meiklejohn by analyzing the significance of the First Amendment to the Constitution (1791), namely, the legal options for restricting freedom of speech in the United States. Meiklejohn argued that the concept of democracy is that of self-government by the people. The “clearest evidence that a government is not democratic, but is essentially despotic and alien” is if those in power are able to manipulate the people by withholding information and stifling criticism “in order to keep them from becoming too rebellious” (Meiklejohn 1948: 10). Free speech – free thought – is all the more important in democracies, since manipulation and propaganda can easily lead to the destruction of the highest good, namely, the self-government of the people.

This argument can be applied to the Middle East for two reasons. First, Western donors aim at building stable and enduring, ‘deep democracies’.  Indeed, the EU’s new response formulated after the Arab Spring explicitly states that its future approach “will be developed by listening, not only to requests for support from partner governments, but also to demands expressed by civil society” and ordinary people (COM 2011a: 3). Second, self-determination and the right to self-determination, even if they are not necessarily identical to self-government [the essence of the Wilsonian concept of self-determination consisted of the notion of self-government of peoples, Nawaz 1965: 84] is one of the most frequent and strongest argument, formulated against foreign powers and economic assistance included, both by governments and citizens asked in recipient countries, the MENA included (cf. Telhami 2013 on ‘identity selection’, the importance of dignity and the difficulties of separating the ‘domestic from the international’ during the ‘Arab Spring’).

It must also be kept in mind that public opinion is not truly ‘free’ in most countries in the region. Recalling the latest Freedom House report, the Middle East and North Africa registered the worst civil liberties scores of any region (Freedom House 2014). The relations between the state and the society, the state and the public or the state and the ‘civil society’ are much more contested than in either Meiklejohn’s America or in European minds. It requires us to interpret ‘local voices’, results of public opinion polls included, cautiously.

COM (2011a) A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Responsibility with the Southern Mediterranean. Joint Communication to the European Council, the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. March 8, 2011, Brussels: European Commission

Freedom House (2014) Freedom in the World 2014. Middle East and North Africa. http://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/Middle%20East%20and%20North%20Africa%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

Meiklejohn, A. (1948) Free Speech and its Relation to Self-Government, New York: Harper Brothers

Nawaz, M. K. (1965) The Meaning and Range of Self-Determination. Duke International Law. Vol 14, No (1): 82-101. http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol14/iss1/

Telhami, S. (2013) The World through Arab Eyes. Basic Books

Eurobarometer surveys have reflected increasing public support for conditionality for the past decade. Exploring the public attitudes towards development aid, the European public was asked in late 2004 whether the level of aid should be linked to the efforts taken by the recipient countries to encourage and sustain democracy. Findings showed that there was a widespread consensus among respondents that the level of aid should be dependent on recipient countries efforts, even if the word ‘condition’ was not used in the survey. The proportion of EU citizens considering that development aid should be used as an incentive for encouraging sustainable democracy rose between Autumn 2002 and 2004 by 5% points to 74% (Eurobarometer 2005, 44).

Years later, already after the ‘Arab Spring’, the majority of respondents (84%) believed that developing countries should follow certain rules regarding democracy, human rights and governance as a condition for receiving EU development aid (Eurobarometer 2011). Similarly, 80% of Europeans were in favour of establishing a link between EU development aid and other European objectives, for example, management of migration flows, access to energy and raw materials and trade opportunities. While there was broad approval for both governance-related conditionality and linking to other EU objectives, there was more support for conditionality (answer “yes, definitely”). At a time when many Europeans were reassessing the intensity of their support for development aid, the emphasis on democracy, human rights and rule of law may prove to be an important element in maintaining support for development aid in future. As the report noted, this may also be related to the events of the Arab Spring, where movements for reform and democracy have swept an entire region (Eurobarometer 2011, 28-34; 56-57).

Eurobarometer (2005) Attitudes towards Development Aid. Special Eurobarometer 222. Conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_222_en.pdf

Eurobarometer (2011) Making a difference in the world. Europeans and the future of development aid. Special Eurobarometer 375. Conducted by TNS Opinion & Social at the request of Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_375_en.pdf