Archive

Monthly Archives: September 2014

Egyptians are known about their hostility towards foreign (mostly US) aid.  Various survey results show that somewhere between 55-85% percent of the Egyptian population is against US aid. Egyptians’ attitudes about U.S. economic aid – channeled in form of budgetary support or direct assistance to NGOs – became increasingly negative, while NGO employees faced charges of illegally accepting foreign funds and stirring unrest (Azeem 2013; Sabry 2014). Other foreign donors (Arab governments, international financial organizations) ‘perform’ better, still sentiments against them similarly increased from the first part of 2011 to the beginning of 2012 (Younis and Younis 2012). Assessing the positive and negative aspects of foreign funding provided (to civil society organizations) in Egypt, Mohammed Elagati collected countless arguments for and against aid mainly from various stakeholders within the Egyptian civil society (Elagati 2013).

As indicated by the Neighbourhood Barometer data (the survey was carried out by REACH Egypt), Egyptians are much less knowledgeable about the details of European involvement and development cooperation than people living in the neighbouring countries. Still, the high rate of ‘do not knows’ vis-à-vis the EU (50-70% depending on the question and date of NB survey) is even more interesting, since Egypt is seen as one of the key partners in the region. Looking at the extent to which Egyptian respondents agreed with various statements formulated on the EU’s involvement in Egypt, the rate of agreement (approval) is very low:

NB, Egypt, qAB8, 2012-2014

The deepest point (‘Spring 2013’ denotes the period between 6 June and 8 July 2013) may well be explained by a specific event, namely the military takeover (3 July 2013) and the preceding mass demonstrations demanding change, which was highly criticized and denounced by the Western powers and public opinion as well. Neither this, nor following steps taken by the EU (the West in general) were welcomed warmly in Egypt. But perhaps the Egyptian results lead to further questions on the reliability of public opinion in non-democratic countries. As long as public opinion is not truly ‘free’ in most countries in the region, one has to interpret ‘local voices’, results of public opinion polls included, cautiously.

Sources: Z. Azeem (2013) ‘NGO Workers Sentenced by Egyptian Court’ Al-Monitor, 10 June, 2013; M. Elagati, M. (2013) Foreign Funding in Egypt After the Revolution. FRIDE, Arab Forum for Alternatives & HIVOS; M. Younis and A. Younis (2012) Egyptian Opposition to US and other foreign aid increases. Gallup, 29 March 2012; M. Sabry (2014) ‘How Egypt’s protest law brought down the revolution’ Al-Monitor, 9 September, 2014; A. Taylor (2013) ‘Millions March in Egyptian Protests’, The Atlantic (In Focus), 1 July 2013; and Neighborhood Barometer analytical reports, wave 1-5 (2012-2014): http://euneighbourhood.eu/eu-neighbourhood-barometer-data/

Advertisements

Neighborhood Barometer survey waves were carried out in Palestine by PCPO in July2012, December2012, June2013, December2013 – January2014 and May-June2014. Looking at five statements on the EU-Palestinian relations (AB8(6) Could you tell me to what extent you agree or disagree with each of the following statements concerning the European Union? asked one after the other, only ‘agree’ answers are displayed, %, 2012-2104), the numbers speak for themselves, however, a strange turn can be observed in the Palestinian case in the first part of 2014.


NB, Palestine, qA8, 2012-2014

Comparing it to the Palestinians’ opinion on their countries’ bilateral relations vis-à-vis the EU (question AB2(4), In general, how would you describe the relations that the EU has with your country? Only ‘total good’ (very good and good) answers, 2012-2104, %), the trend (red line) is similar. The ‘total good’ opinions increased by 12% point between December 2013 (60%) and June 2014 (72%) and there was a drop in the ‘total bad’ rate (from 29% to 20%, not shown on the graph).

NB, AB2, mashreq

While the longer run trend of ‘total bad’ and ‘total good’ opinions seem to slightly correlate with the Israeli experience, the sudden increase in the Palestinian ‘total good’ replies – in case of both questions (AB8 and AB2) may be explained by a coincidence. The survey was carried out in the Palestinian territories between 26 May and 16 June 2014. The EU not only contributed approximately €16.4 million to the payment of the April salaries and pensions of approximately 700,000 Palestinian civil servants and pensioners in May, but it also made available €200 million to support the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA (Unispal, May 2014).

Most Palestinians have firm opinion on how international (understood as Western) development cooperation works. Local experts’ publications, op-eds and blogs as well as qualitative interviews with local informants and activists being familiar with international aid seem to echo the same opinions and critiques: donor aid serves foreign interests and is not free from conditions in Palestine. The main argument, as summarized by Nora Murad, remains the same: ‘there is literally no aspect of the economy that is independent of Israeli control and international influence. (…) The PA answers to international/Israeli orders, and has almost no accountability to local communities. Sadly, international NGOs fail to live up to their civil society mandate. Instead, they compete with local NGOs for funding, staff and beneficiaries. (…) There is a massive and self-perpetuating ‘humanitarian’ system that not only constrains local agency, but also undermines traditional systems for interdependence and self-reliance” (Murad 2014). Note, that the quoted and other (Nakhleh 2004, Nakhleh 2012) local interpretations place ‘Israeli’ and ‘international’ next to each other: international development cooperation and the Israeli occupation seems to complete each other, even if the officially foreign aid is provided for keeping the ‘two-state’ idea alive.

In theory, foreign aid has aimed at improving the Palestinian socio-economic conditions and building institutional system of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Its utmost objective has been sustaining the Oslo Peace Process since the 1990s and supporting any Israeli-Palestinian efforts for returning to the negotiation table for the past decade.[i] Conditions became open and visible in the Palestinian case in 2006 when the donor community (the Quartet) set three conditions in exchange for accepting the results of the parliamentary elections.[ii] However, donors provided foreign aid, in form of official development assistance and humanitarian aid for getting something back since the early 1990a: to see their agendas and conditions to be met (Nakhleh 2004; Le More 2008; Taghdisi-Rad 2011; Paragi 2012). Due to the consequences of the elections (Hamas takeover in Gaza, Israeli measures and restrictions, Fayyad’s development and reconstruction plans) and perhaps due to the ‘senseless’ being of the conditions formulated in 2006, the donor community has been very cautious to ask anything formally in exchange for aid since 2008. The structure, channels, forms of international assistance – provided partly through the PEGASE mechanism and from EU budget – has not changed regardless to the Arab Spring and the ‘more for more’ principle: conditionality officially and intentionally is not applied (cf. ECA 2013).

Further reading: Brynen, R. (2000) A Very Political Economy: Peacebuilding and Foreign Aid in the West Bank and Gaza.Washington: United States Institute of Peace (USIP); ECA (2013b) European Union Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority. Special Report 14/2013 (Luxembourg: European Court of Auditors); LeMore, A. (2008) Political Guilt, Wasted Money International Assistance to the Palestinians after Oslo. London: Routledge; Murad, N. (2014): An alternative to international aid. OpenDemocracy.net; Nakhleh, K. (2004) The Myth of Palestinian Development. Political Aid and Sustainable Deceit. Jerusalem: PASSIA; Nakhleh, K. (2011) Globalized Palestine. The National Sell-out of a Homeland. The RedSea Press; Paragi, B. (2012b) The Spiritual Essence: Palestinian Perceptions on Foreign Aid, Conditionality and Reciprocity. Journal International Political Anthropology 5 (1) 3-28; Taghdisi-Rad, S. (2011) The political economy of aid in Palestine: relief from conflict or development delayed? London: Routledge

 

[i]The principal aim of the donor community was to support the Oslo Peace Process in line with the spirit of the Declaration of Principles (DOP) signed by Israel and the Palestinian Liberalization Organization (PLO)by adjusting to the background provided by the multilateral regional framework established after the Madrid Conference (1991).As worded in the Co-Sponsors Summary of the first meeting conveyed by international actors in the shadow of the DOP ceremony, the donors officially sought to pursue ‘twin goals’ in terms of immediate and longer term actions: to have a short term impact on economic prospects and living standards, to ensure that longer-term assistance lays the basis for launching sustained growth (Conference to Support the Middle East. Co-Sponsors Summary 1993). More on international support and foreign aid channeled to the PNA.

[ii] Two legislative elections were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Oslo Peace Process, the first in 1996, the second in 2006. In the January 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas (List of Reform and Change) won a decisive majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (it gained 74 seats of the 132) defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party, the main partner for peace with Israel and partner for cooperation with the donor community. Reactions from Israel and the Western (OECD DAC) donor community led to governmental crisis and the split between Hamas (gaining control over the Gaza Strip) and Fatah (keeping its position in the West Bank). In June 2007, Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the government led by Ismail Haniye, and appointed Salam Fayyad as a prime minister. This move and the reforms implemented by Fayyad (and financed by the donor community) led to further rifts between the leadership sponsored by the international community and the PLO/Fatah.

The next few posts (ie. the posts above) will be about the results of the Neighborhood Barometer (NB) survey (2012-2014), which is a an unprecedented survey: the first research on what people living in the eastern and southern neighborhood think about the EU.

Its principal aim is ‘to generate an analysis tool for EuropeAid and the EU delegations in the neighboring territories about the population knowledge and perception of the EU, ENP and its co-operation programs.’ According to the official communications it has two objectives: (i) to measure public opinion towards the EU policy in neighboring countries; (ii) to monitor the media coverage in each country of the EU Neighborhood area related to the EU and EU co-operation/policy. Since Spring 2012 five waves of opinion polls were conducted (two in each year, one in 2014) in the Eastern and Southern Neighborhood. Details on data collection (date of survey, polling institute, sample size) can be found in the reports called ‘analytical reports’ at its website.

Before looking at the results (only in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Palestine) in the following posts, the meaning of the numbers (ie. opinions) should be put into a proper perspective. According to the findings citizens of the ENPI South countries are poorly aware of the EU activities, development and humanitarian assistance included. As authors of the first NB report noted ‘the availability and the quality of the EU-related information appear to be insufficient for ENPI South citizens,’ especially in Egypt and Jordan. Which is even more remarkable that the proportion of those disagreeing with the first statement in the Masreq has significantly increased since June 2012:

NB, ENPI-mashreq average, AC1

The most satisfied with the magnitude of information on the EU is the Palestinian and Israeli population which is partly due to the size of the countries and populations and mostly to the relative ‘density’ of information available to them. The Jordanians and the Egyptians are much less knowledgeable on the EU’s role in general.

NB, AC1, info on eu_eijp.pdf

It must be also kept in mind that – contrary to the labels (Spring/Printempts, Autumn/Automne) – the surveys were carried out during the Summer months (between May-August depending on the year and country) and early Winter (between November and January, mostly in December).

Sources:

NB (2012a, 2012b): EU Neighborhood Barometer. South, Wave 1-2, Spring and Autumn 2012 (Brussels: TNS Opinion); NB (2013a, 2013b): EU Neighborhood Barometer. South, Wave 3-4, Spring and Autumn 2013 (Brussels: TNS Opinion); NB (2014): Barometre du voisinage de L’UE. Sud de la Méditerranée. Printemps 2014. South, Wave 5, Spring 2014 (Brussels TNS Opinion). All of them can be accessed at: http://euneighbourhood.eu

Donors: keep out writes The Economist and then continues: Egypt and Hungary are just two fronts in an escalating war waged by authoritarian governments against groups promoting the Western vision of liberal democracy as not just regular elections but public, pluralistic debate. Recent years have seen a big rise in “philanthropic protectionism”, says Douglas Rutzen of the International Centre for Non-Profit Law (ICNL), which tracks how governments treat NGOs. Some, like Hungary, harass foreign-funded NGOs using existing tools, such as heavy-handed investigations. Others are writing new laws that serve the same purpose.

What is common in Azerbaijan, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nigeria, Egypt and Hungary for that matter and to mention only a few? Members of the political leadership and the elite are simply unable to apply for and get a normal job on the market, except for the political marketplace. Their profession is being in power. Some of them probably have sincere worries for their own people, but the majority has to take care too much neither with their people’s will, nor with the borders of their playgrounds. As long as the nation state and national sovereignty is considered sacred by the international community, as long as the Western powers are not willing to risk their own citizens’ lives in real wars to protect political, social, religious, economic, etc, rights in the listed (and non-listed) countries, too much will not happen. Budgetary aid (grants, loans) and sanctions against governments are part of the game: these can ensure a balance between stability and instability in international relations. But will never lead to democratic changes within a society, unless, those in power can be convinced that they can have a much happier life outside the government, parliament, judiciary. Niebuhr’s famous thought (man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary, 1944) probably misses one point: the gradual development of (Western) democracy was not externally forced upon the governing elites; sharing power was their enlightened self-interest, it was a sort of means guaranteeing the survival of the state in the 19th and 20th centuries. If ‘someone’ has a state(like entity) today guaranteed by international legal norms and principles, and supported by foreign grants, it will not be so much interested in voluntarily providing democratic rights to those that want to have his seat.

The Economist, Foreign funding of NGOs: Donors: keep out | The Economist, 13 September, 2014. http://www.economist.com/news/international/21616969-more-and-more-autocrats-are-stifling-criticism-barring-non-governmental-organisations?fsrc=email_to_a_friend // // // //

In their contracts and internal documents foreign governments are often explicit about what they expect from the research groups they finance. The article written by Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore and published by NYTimes (Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks, NYTimes.com, September 6, 2014) tracks how foreign governments try to influence research in not so innocent manner:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/07/us/politics/100000003097265.mobile.html

Even if there is a public debate and outrage, it must be kept in mind that money matters and it is part of our daily lives. Donor ‘influence’ is part of the game even at the lowest research/researcher levels. EU Marie Curie grants, such as the one behind this blog, cannot be obtained unless the applicant is able to ‘outline the benefit that will be gained from undertaking the project at Community level and how the integration grant will contribute to enhance EU competitiveness’ (copy pasted from ‘Instructions for preparing proposal Part B for Marie Curie Grants’). The benefit and competitiveness – in most fields/disciplines of social sciences – is ‘something political’ or at least ‘policy-related’. And it applies to any research on value-sensitive topics, such as human rights, governance, democracy, religion, violence, foreign aid, etc. If a government (a private person, for that matter) is motivated to influence masses in the Middle East, it has to support Islamic charities and/or movements. In the West, one can win more by giving money to research establishments and researchers, because their (our) activity, academic and intellectual independence, legitimacy is perceived to be sacred. Motives and mechanisms are the same.