The fact that  the US prioritizes Mubarak-era security arrangements over (transition to) democracy according to a draft version of a bill (Making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes) does not reflect more (nor less) that ties and bonds do matter as long as (i) there is a common enemy to win over or dangers to overcome (ii) democracy is not a sacred cow. Fear matters more than political ideas.

Reading p 133-134 (paragraphs on Egypt) it is clear how “foreign aid” is linked to regional considerations and donor interests: “Funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act that are made available for assistance for the Government of Egypt may be made available notwithstanding any provision of law restricting assistance for Egypt, except such funds may only be made available if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that such government is (A) sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States; and (B) meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt- Israel Peace Treaty.”

AL-Monitor quotes panel member Dutch Ruppersberger, justifying the proposed bill this way: “If you have an ally you work with them. You don’t tear them down, you build them up (..) if we walk away, do you want China, Russia to move in and take them over? That’s kind of the things you have to look at.”

The objective of foreign (development, military) aid practices is to perpetuate the bond (Furia 2015, 4) as long as the bond is seen as a means or guarantee to prevent non-desired outcomes.

­

Julian Pecquet: “Congress seeks to lift last restrictions on aid to Egypt” Al-Monitor, June 1, 2015 available at http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/06/state-department-congress-funding-egypt.html#ixzz3c5IFuVjz

Advertisements

Reading (so far only) excerpts from A. Furia’s book on foreign aid and gift-giving (Palgrave Pilot, 2015), one may find references to an ‘old’ declaration by Julius Nyerere. The Arusha Declaration (1967) deals extensively with foreign assistance (‘external aid’) which was sorted into three (basically non-desired) categories by (the early/young) Nyerere: gifts, loans and private investments. Gifts were understood as a non-reciprocated transfer: ” another government gives our Government a sum of money as a free gift for a particular development scheme. Sometimes it may be that an institution in another country gives our Government, or an institution in our country, financial help for development programmes.” For Nyerere it was the less favourable form of aid as long as he understood it as a ‘gentle’ means endangering independence and sovereignty. Regardless to the fact that foreign aid was eventually ‘accepted’ by the Tanzanian government, the reason for rejecting it may be worthwhile to recall:

Even if there was a nation, or nations, prepared to give us all the money we need for our development, it would be improper for us to accept such assistance without asking ourselves how this would effect our independence and our very survival as a nation. Gifts which increase, or act as a catalyst, to our own efforts are valuable. Gifts which could have the effect of weakening or distorting our own efforts should not be accepted until we have asked ourselves a number of questions.

Some 25-30 years later, in 1993, the Palestinian political leadership faced the same dilemma and asked very similar questions. The promise of foreign aid (at the advent of the Oslo Peace Process) was by no means generous and altruistic for many (this ‘many’ was really a ‘minority’ then). By attaching conditions to their ‘gift,’ donor countries took advantage of their material and political dominance in order to pressure them to behave in line with donor (ie. Western) political agenda. Reservations were formulated against giving up parts of Palestinian political identity in exchange for foreign aid in the early 1990s [i]. This fear was worded, right after the Oslo Accords had been signed, by Hani Hassan in the following way [ii]:

‘it is true that we will get a handful of billions of dollars and that we will build power stations in Gaza and sewage system on the West Bank. But this is not what PLO is about’.

As these two examples probably illustrate, it is the very being – identity – of the beneficiary which is threatened by (the acceptance of) external assistance (let it be formally or informally conditional) as long as the quality of relationship between the donor and recipient (giver-receiver, helper-helped) is determined by any sort of inequality, asymmetry and unwillingness to share a particular set of norms, values and interests. Permanent or prolonged indebtedness creates enemies… but makes real gifts possible, indeed.

Notes: [i] On the critics of the Oslo peace process, see for example: R. Lentin, ed. (2008) Thinking Palestine. London: Zed Books; [ii] The full text of his speech is quoted by Laqueur and Rubin (2001): The Arab-Israeli Reader, p. 435-36.

 

AHLC members and other major donor countries met in Brussels yesterday, at a meeting hosted by EU High Representative office. The chair, Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende, welcomed Prime Minister Hamdallah and commended the parties, the UN, the World Bank, the IMF and the Quartet Representative for their reports and contributions (see an earlier post here).

Citing the Chairs’ Summary “the donors took note of Israeli efforts to increase the volume of materials into Gaza. They welcomed the readiness expressed for further increasing the volumes even if this involves raised security risks. Access to the Gaza Strip for materials, financing and persons is a necessary condition for the full reconstruction of Gaza. Protection of the lives and security of all civilian populations must be assured.

The AHLC concluded that the Palestinians will need high levels of budget assistance during the coming years, and called on the donors to respond to this need. Assistance should not be diverted from the West Bank towards the reconstruction of Gaza, and assistance to Gaza should be channelled through the PA. Without a resumption of the political process to end the occupation, however, the PA’s financial situation will become unmanageable.” 

Minutes have been recorded and can be accessed at EU’s website (Audiovisual collection):

Roundtable and opening remarks by Børge BRENDE, Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and by Johannes HAHN, Member of the EC in charge of European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

      or at: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I103818

Remarks by Federica MOGHERINI, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EC

      or at: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I103793

Reading the reports and watching the speeches, it is worthwhile to recall Annalisa Furia’s thoughs from her recently published book: “the quantity of generosity does not say much about the ‘quantity of real aid’ (…). It also does not say that much about its quality, about the nature of the gift (…). More importantly, it does not say much on the ways in which gift [that is, aid] is returned” (p74).

Annalisa Furia (2015): The Foreign Aid Regime: Gift-Giving, States and Global Dis/Order. NY: Palgrave(Pivot)

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…

 

An OECD-chart reporting on 2014 ODA (as percentage of GNI, DAC and non-DAC donors alike) shows that the biggest donor is the United Arab Emirates (1,17%). Indeed, the Gulf states have become increasingly important (humanitarian) donors in recent years, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to emergencies across the globe. Interesting data – at least in light of the topic of its blog – esp. because most countries (Gulf countries included) tend to fail to deliver aid to the Palestinians.

A recent IRIN-article (referring to a World Bank report to be presented to the AHLC meeting in Brussels next week) says that Gulf Arab states and Turkey have spectacularly failed to fulfill their pledges to Gaza since last Summer (well, since September). Qatar has delivered just 10 percent of the $1 billion it promised, while Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait between them have handed over just over $50 million of the $900 million they pledged, according to a World Bank report seen by IRIN ahead of its release.

Donors pledged  $5.4 billion formally in Cairo (last September), although only $3.5 billion of it was actually allocated to Gaza. As of late April 2015, donors had given only 27.5 percent of the promised $3.5 billion, or $967 million.

More about it:

Annie Slemrod: Which countries are failing to deliver Gaza aid?// IRIN Middle East, May 22, 2015, http://www.irinnews.org/report/101530/which-countries-are-failing-to-deliver-gaza-aid

The Quartet-report (to be presented next week) is available here: May 2015 report to Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee, http://ht.ly/NbmZm

Both the original World Bank report (Economic monitoring report to the AHLC, May 27, 2015) and its executive summary is available online.

The UNSCO report is also available online as well the IMF-report.

 

 

 

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