Over years of work in Palestine, I’ve spoken with hundreds of people about their experiences with international aid. I’ve written articles and delivered presentations and worked on committees, but I don’t see any real changes happening. Most recently, meetings and discussions with Palestinians led to this draft document — criteria for distinguishing aid that should be accepted from aid that should be rejected. It’s perhaps the most important work I’ve ever done. Why? Because it shifts our entire focus away from what we want “them” (donors) to do, which is not in our control, to a focus on what “we” (the Palestinian community) agree to participate in, which is something in our control. It is a draft document intended as a discussion starter. Please, read it carefully and share your thoughts.
INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE THAT ADVANCES PALESTINIAN SELF-DETERMINATION IS ACCEPTED
International assistance that advances Palestinian self-determination:
• consistently and explicitly opposes occupation and colonization and puts into practice policies that challenge structural inequality;
• complies with international law and prosecutes those who break it;
• actively challenges Israeli impunity through sanctions and political pressure;
• is actively committed to real democracy, including the right of all Palestinians to choose their own leaders, participate in political life, and receive benefits – regardless of political opinion or affiliation;
• recognizes the unity of the Palestinian community as a whole and aligns policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank (including Jerusalem and Area C), Gaza, Israel, refugee camps, and the Diaspora toward the goal of self-determination;
• respects Palestinians’ right to resist oppression including through means such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions;
• leverages coherent political, economic and cultural policies to protect Palestinians, Palestinian rights and Palestinian resources;
• conceptualizes “development” as a way of realizing rights, and respects the right and responsibility of Palestinians to lead the process;
• implements Palestinians’ rights to allocate their own development resources including resources spent on their behalf; and
• provides information about its activities, including budgets, and engages in mechanisms whereby it can be held accountable by local people.
Moreover, international assistance that advances Palestinian self-determination seeks to:
• eliminate the diversion of Palestinian aid funds to international NGOs or international private sector vendors;
• intervene only when local actors cannot, and avoid duplication of or competition with local actors;
• stop the payment of any aid funds to Israeli governmental organizations or to Israeli private sector organizations when there is a Palestinian or international alternative;
• prevent waste of resources on experts that do not add to local knowledge, are overpaid, and are not selected by locals; and
• refrain from unethical practices including corruption, breaking commitments, paying beneficiaries for training, favoritism, double standards, stealing projects, etc.
INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE THAT UNDERMINES PALESTINIAN SELF-DETERMINATION IS REJECTED
International assistance that undermines Palestinian self-determination:
• enables Israel to avoid paying costs for which it is responsible as occupier according to international law;
• is not accompanied by active political support for Palestinian self-determination;
• is palliative, “humanitarian,” short-term, or in the form of loans
• demands that Palestinians police one another;
• requires activities that benefit Israel or that decrease pressure on Israel to change its policies;
• supports economic or cultural “solutions” that do not include political rights;
• is based on priorities or strategies developed by non-Palestinians;
• relies on foreign-chosen or installed Palestinians to speak on behalf of the community as a whole;
• wastes funds on “capacity building” that isn’t requested and tied to self-determination;
• requires Palestinians to use foreign languages, frameworks and waste money; and
• disrespects local traditions and beliefs.