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development

Empirical data collected in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (last summer, so far unpublished) reveal that (at least) two “aid industries” exist in parallel. As expressed by one of our respondents (leader of an Islamic charity, Sept 21, 2015, Gaza Strip):

“We don’t get any support from European and American donors, these donors don’t deal with us, they are ashamed to deal with us. While they know the we are association providing services for wounded people, they think that the wounded people are military personnel; on the contrary, all the wounded people are civilians. They have been injured during the years of the Intifada and during the wars or the bombing of the Israeli army for many places and houses in Gaza. There are is a very sensitivity to the word ‘wounded’ or ‘injured’ or ‘prisoner’ by those donors (European and American), these donors are boycotting all the Palestinian associations dealing with these category of people wounded or prisoners.”

The one which is “ashamed” to deal with the other has also been accused of promoting neoliberal ideas at the expense of local, Palestinian national (nation-building) interests.

With reference to this complex world (of opinions and realities) two recent publications deserve attention:

Marie Juul Petersen (2015): For Humanity Or For The Umma?: Aid and Islam in Transnational Muslim NGOs. London: Hurst and Co

The book explores how Muslim NGOs conceptualise their provision of aid and the role Islam plays in this and offers insights into a new kind of NGO in the global field of aid provision. It also contributes more broadly to understanding ‘public Islam’ as something beyond political Islam. The book is based on empirical case studies of four of the biggest transnational Muslim NGOs, and draws on extensive research in Britain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and Bangladesh.

Linda Tabar and Omar Jabary Salamanca, eds (2015): Critical Readings of Development under Colonialism. Towards a Political Economy for Liberation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Ramallah: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and Birzeit University’s Center for Development Studies

The point of departure of this latter publication is to elaborate on “the critical development discourse in Palestine” that has “become part of the overall debate of development under colonial settings.”

 

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Chatham House has published a new research paper (The ‘myth’ of a Palestinian economy by Sami Abdel-Shafi) on the EU’s donor policies (based on the Oslo Peace Process). The core objective of the paper was worded as “to persuade the European Union (EU) to shift its policy from supporting the current framework of Palestinian economic development, which in effect subordinates the economy to a political process that has become stalled and dysfunctional. It calls for the decoupling of economic development from the peace process, irrespective of the political roadblocks – or possible future progress – in the latter.” One of its recommendation (p25) concerns “a joint review by the EU and the PA of the extent to which aid has achieved its aims seems timely. Similarly timely would be an assessment of how effective it has been for the EU to divert funds from development aid to humanitarian aid and budgetary support to the Palestinians.”

Everyone being familiar with the history of aid to Palestine knows that there are serious problems with the way how the EU supports the Palestinian statebuilding. The EU – the international donor community – has been busy with “building” a Palestinian state, the territories of which is partially occupied by Israel and controlled by the Hamas. For some more or less obvious reasons the EU has been pouring money to the Palestinian territorries (adminstration, statebuilding, security cooperation with Israel, supporting refugees, and victims of the Gaza wars). From an academic perspective the exciting question is why policy-paper writers, activists, scholars, researchers constantly feel compelled to write papers on the EU’s incompetence and urge it to change its policies? The EU – let it mean anyone – knows well the situation, each and every fact created on the ground; the EU has closely monitored and documented the “developments” since the early 1990s. Various European bodies and authorities published exhaustive “self-reflective” reports and papers throughout the years (see for example the evaluations prepared by the European Court of Auditors), to mention only the most recent one prepared to the EC:

Evaluation of the European Union’s Cooperation with the occupied Palestinian territory and support to the Palestinian people 2008 – 2013, Vol I (main report) + Vol II (Annex). Evaluation carried out on behalf of the European Commission, May 2014

This paper sincerely and explicitly concedes that “notwithstanding ardent declaratory policies, massive financial support, dialogue and deployment of other instruments, EU Cooperation had little demonstrable impact on the main obstacles to achieving the Two-State solution. The Evaluation collected abundant evidence that the goals of the EU have been seriously hampered by “binding constraints,” the most significant being the Israeli restrictions in relation to occupation and allocation of resources for settlements, but also including Palestinian political divisions and an absence of democratic process. While these binding constraints have been highlighted in EU statements, the evaluation findings indicate that the EU has been neither willing nor able to address these constraints squarely, with an effective political response” (Vol I. page VIII).

The EU knows everything. The Palestinians – Israel alike – know that it knows everything.

There is an unbridgeable, but largely unappreciated gap between the neat rationality of development agencies’ representations which imagine the world as ordered and manageable and the actualities of situated social practice” – Mark Hobart, 1993, ‘Introduction: The Growth of Ignorance?’ in M. Hobart (ed.) An Anthropological Critique of Development: The Growth of Ignorance. London: Routledge, p.16.

Equally, there is a(n) (un)bridgeable gap between the ‘humanitarian’ and the ‘development’ (policies, practices, assistance, aid, agencies, etc). In many parts of the world they just can not be separated. In preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, 2016), the organizers have held regional consultations, workshops and various other events (in the Middle East as well) to map the regional and global (humanitarian) needs, problems, views and priorities. Within this framework organizers of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) – in preparing for a consultation for the Middle East and North Africa – commissioned a research on local stakeholders’ and people’s views. Not only a summary of the regional consultation (Amman, March 2015, see Scoping Paper) is available, but an illustrative ‘whiteboard animation‘ can be accessed too.

As far as the interviews are concerned  they were conducted with a mix of men, women, youth and community leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen between November 2014 and February 2015. Majority of the focus group interviews were conducted face-to-face (bits of them were recorded and posted on youtube), but an online questionnaire was also applied. Quite a bit part of the published WHS/Mena report (Preparatory Stakeholder Analysis) is about how and what respondents think about aid agencies and the (non-)existing (?) differences between the humanitarian and political dimensions of problems in the region.

According to the report – as summarized by IRINNews – aid agencies are partial, unaccountable and potentially corrupt, and they fail to meet refugees’ most pressing needs; there is a systematic lack of consultation about people’s needs, a failure to protect the most vulnerable, confusion over which agency was responsible for what, duplicated aid, as well as instances where help was perceived to be withheld or prioritized due to political or religious affiliation.

To be con’t…

 

The United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People “was convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at the United Nations Office at Vienna on 31 March and 1 April. The theme of the Seminar was “Speeding up relief, recovery and reconstruction in post-war Gaza”. The Seminar reviewed the pressing immediate and longer-term humanitarian and development needs in the Gaza Strip, and in particular, Gaza’s severe housing, fuel, power, environmental and water crises, which greatly intensified in the wake of the war of 2014. Some 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, while power cuts of up to 18 hours a day are commonplace. The Seminar aimed at strengthening cooperation between all parties involved in efforts towards Gaza’s reconstruction and economic development: the Palestinian Government, intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, key donors, as well as the private sector. It also strived to identify the obstacles to Gaza’s recovery and reconstruction.” This latter was a somewhat weird ‘objective’ as long as most, if not all of the participants had to be familiar with the obstacles.

I could participate on the Seminar only for the second day (see: FINAL PROGRAMME E). Looking at the photos posted on Unispal’s flickr-site the second day was much less crowded. It is hard to estimate but ca. 30-40 people showed up, not much more: 4-5 panelist (see: UN Seminar, participants, bios) in the morning and afternoon respectively, 5-6 at most 10 NGOs represented by one or more people, diplomats from Palestine and delegates from various countries, international organizations, perhaps a few journalists. The room looked huge and empty compared to the first day.

The morning panel was interesting (but not very interesting), esp. Geffrey Aronson’s lecture on considering an alternative maritime port and route between Gaza and Turkey (being similar to the trade route between Turkey and Jordan/SA via Haifa port and Israel’s territory). I guess, it is a much less easily feasible idea than the other route, but who knows… Israel definitely wants  to exercise certain control over any (trade) activities between Gaza and the world, even if the Ashdod port could be left out of the game.

Shaddad Attili held a very ‘angry’, somewhat frustrated lecture on the slow (political) progress with – or decision-making on – large-scale desalination and other (technically possible) projects that could offer solution to the water scarcity in Gaza. His presentation was completed by that of Fuad Bateh, more on the technical side. They both emphasized/concluded that it is more or less a matter of political will to implement these projects (to build plants).

The other remarkable lecture was given by an Barbara Capone (Sunshine4Palestine). She introduced the existing technical-practical opportunities to provide sweet (drinkable??) water (and sustainable purification systems) to Gazan households on small-scale and on individual/household basis by gaining/utilizing humidity from the air. It was a bit technical, but probably to the closest to real needs on the ground.

My overall impression was that participants somehow lost their interest to the second day… and (trying not to be impolite) I was struggling to figure out the real purpose of such events.. Perhaps the high-profile participants could discuss the needs and priorities or others could establish relations in the coffee breaks, I do not know, after all I am really an outsider, just a researcher being not that much involved in the political bargaining processes. I was definitely happy that the conference was postponed and moved from Cairo to Vienna and I happen to have been there last week… so participation did not really cost me that much money… otherwise I would have been slightly disappointed, I think. Press releases may change these impressions: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

 

… Donor Aid in Occupied Palestine in the aftermath of the Arab Uprisings

It is not really “donor aid” rather perceptions (local opinion) on it (data was collected during Summer 2013), but a very interesting reading from two PhD-candidates at UK universities (Jeremy Wildeman and Alaa Tartir), not only the abstract:

Since 1993 the international community has invested more than $24 billion in ‘peace and development’ in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). That aid was meant originally to support the Oslo Peace Process through economic development. However, neither peace nor development has been realized, and both seem increasingly unlikely. While examining donor operations, priorities and the ‘aid-for-peace’ agenda, this article investigates whether patterns in oPt donor aid have changed following the Arab uprisings of 2011. Building on 28 original interviews with Palestine aid actors, it was found that patterns remain unchanged and that donors remain transfixed on a long failed ‘Investment in Peace’ framework that was designed for economic development by the World Bank back in 1993. By comparing these research findings with the literature on aid to Palestine, this article argues that donors are not ready to alter a framework dominated by policy instrumentalists who emphasize pre-determined normative values over actual results, quietly trading financial inducements to Palestinians to forgo political rights within a ‘peace dividends’ model. Meanwhile, critics of the existing aid framework remain largely ignored and have little influence on aid policy, in spite of two decades of instrumentalist failure to produce peace or economic growth using the existing model.

Mediterranean Politics, Volume 19, Issue 3, 2014

 

The European Union welcomed the demonstrators’ demands wholeheartedly during the Arab Spring, trying to maximize the assistance that it could offer to support genuine democratic transition, at least at a rhetorical level. This article reflects on the changes in the neighborhood policy by focusing on public perceptions measured in Europe and in countries in close proximity to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. European views on solidarity are compared to local public opinion on EU involvement in the region. Recipient views in Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel are explored by analyzing relevant results of the Arab Barometer and Neighborhood Barometer surveys. Findings indicate that the Middle Eastern public opinion tends to appreciate the EU’s gestures with the exception of Egypt, but conditionality is more in line with European public opinion.

The (my) article was published at Democracy and Security, Volume 11, Issue 1, 2015.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17419166.2015.1006397#abstract

There are more and more articles dealing with the reconstruction hardships in Gaza. It applies to the number of explanations as well. Which factors hinder the progress? Israel, the PNA, the lack of unity between Hamas, PLO/Fateh, donor fatigue, the Winter, corruption… to cite only a few:

Foreign governments (that last October contributed $5.4 billion to a fund for the Palestinians, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others in Europe) have indicated that they cannot fully follow through on their commitments until the unity government is in charge as a single authority. The Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukri, points partly to the lack of progress in the indirect negotiations – the aim of which is a permanent ceasefire – between Hamas and Israel. In addition, the “lack of trust” between [Palestinian, Israeli] authorities involved can been explained by the fact that it was agreed that the Palestinian Authority would receive the money after it would resume responsibility in Gaza. ‘Lack of trust’ between authorities halts Gaza reconstruction donations, Al-Tahrir News Network, 29 December, 2014.

‘Escalating tension between Islamist group Hamas and its Western-backed rival Fatah has pushed their “unity” government to the brink of collapse, harming efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip and complicating Palestinian statehood ambitions. (…) The [Hamas-led] government’s inability to fully carry out its work has stalled rebuilding in Gaza, (…) while the PNA/Fateh says his technocrat government cannot begin to administer Gaza until Hamas fully relinquishes control. (…) Hamas accuses Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads Fatah and controls the PA budget, of trying to throttle the group into submission, including by refusing to pay its 50,000 public-sector employees. (…)’. Nidal al-Mughrabi, Palestinian unity frays, hurting Gaza’s rebuilding and statehood aims, Reuters, 14 January, 2015.

All this means that not only the money targeting the Palestinian Authority have not been disbursed , but even the “UN [UNRWA]  programme (to rebuild Gaza and give aid and shelter to more than 100,000 Gazans made homeless by the 50-day summer war) will be suspended at the end of January because world donors have reneged on promises to pay. Sara Helm, UN Gaza Rebuilding to Halt at End of January Due to Lack of Funds, Newsweek, 22 January, 2015.

The ultimate goal of the donor conference in last October was to strengthen the basis of the ceasefire and improving political solution prospects for the conflict by means of (i) strengthening the Palestinian government’s ability to assume its responsibility in the rehabilitation of Gaza Strip; (ii) enhancing the existing UN mechanism for import and export of goods and materials to and from Gaza; (iii) providing the financial support required for reconstructing Gaza Strip. Almost 90 countries and international organizations participated in the conference and agreed on the listed goals and means.

There is no reason to assume that the participants were unfamiliar with the Palestinian political reality and the power struggles between the Palestinian forces. They probably understood quite well what Ghazi Hamad meant my his article titled, ‘Now I understand how and why the Palestinians lost Palestine‘ (well before the piece was published).

What did Nietzsche write in a somewhat different context and age? The [modern] state is an ‘organized immorality’ partly due to the “dismemberment of responsibility”. What would he have said about the international conferences?