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no advocacy, no protection Arrow vol 4 no 1 contents
About borderlands Volume 4 Number 1, 2005


No advocacy, no protection, no 'politics':
Why aid-for-peace does not bring peace

Nadia Abu-Zahra
University of Oxford



1. Increasing amounts of aid are being directed to 'conflict' situations. This essay questions whether this aid serves as an 'anti-politics machine' (Ferguson 1990), discouraging grassroots political activity and claiming to be apolitical, while generating political outcomes. The essay asks why and how advocacy and protection are generally excluded from aid activities. Woven throughout the discussion is the underlying question of what alternative exists to predominant forms of aid.

2. The essay is divided into three parts. The first distinguishes between aid tied to political peace processes, hereafter referred to as 'peacebuilding aid', and aid based on international humanitarian law, referred to as 'rights-based aid'. Peacebuilding aid is seen to follow traditional development, focusing on centralised authority, technical assistance, structural adjustment, and in situations of conflict, peace processes. To evaluate why peacebuilding aid does not bring peace, a suggested method is to examine whether inequities are addressed, and if not, why not. This method is applied in the second part of the essay, using the case study of Palestine. The finding is that peacebuilding aid favours traditional development interventions, which serve to substitute for social and political justice, hinder grassroots planning, and extend donor, state and interstate control. The case study also addresses the question of an alternative, rights-based aid approach. Out of five possible kinds of actors for rights-based interventions, Palestine has four: local organisations, international peace teams, international donors and supporters, and international monitoring groups; the one lacking is an international protection force. Each of these, however, faces pressure to conform to a peacebuilding aid approach.

3. The third part of the essay returns to the core questions: why does aid-for-peace not bring peace, and what are the prospects for an alternative? Advocacy and protection, it is argued, are gradually de-legitimised in favour of peacebuilding aid. Because peace requires restoration of human rights, however, suppressing advocacy and protection not only fails to bring peace, but works against efforts to bring peace. As global understanding of this dynamic increases, the prospects for an alternative also increase. A rights-based approach is already widely seen as an alternative to traditional development; what this essay demonstrates is its particular relevance as an alternative to peacebuilding aid.

Peacebuilding aid

4. For the purposes of this essay, some definitions may be useful. The essay uses three terms, peace, conflict and post-conflict, in the same way they are used by aid agencies. Peace, for example, can be defined in a short-term sense as a cessation of hostilities and commencement of elections. It can also be defined in a long-term sense as a reduction of structural inequalities. Conflict is defined as violent confrontation, and post-conflict as a reduction in such confrontation. However, all these terms are considered problematic. For example, 'conflict' implies two armed parties fighting one another, whereas many situations are better described as 'internal colonialism', a state oppressing indigenous peoples, or 'military occupation', one state's military controlling another state's civilian population. 'Post-conflict' or even 'peace' implies a finite beginning and end, strengthening the concept of 'conflict' as two warring sides, and omitting the structural inequalities that have no 'post' period.

5. Aid agencies are defined as including multilateral actors like the World Bank, bilateral actors like the United States Agency for International Development, international non-governmental organisations like Save the Children, and donor foundations like the Ford Foundation. Peacebuilding aid, as pursued by multilateral and bilateral agencies, includes structural adjustment, security sector reform (SSR), disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation of combatants (DDR), transitional and restorative justice (TRJ), and governance, including support for constitutional development, elections, civil service, rule of law, and anti-corruption measures (Junne and Verkoren, 2004). It aims to 'reconstitute financial entities, embrace structural adjustment, and revive commercial activity' (CIC, 2004: 1). It is channelled largely through recipient governments, and favours donor-preferred interventions such as infrastructure development and technical assistance. Just as economic development is dependent on peace, it is said, peace is dependent on economic development (Balaj and Wallich, 1999: 2). Aid becomes the technical complement to a political peace process.

6. As peacebuilding aid is increasingly implemented, however, many observe that conditions are not improving. Just as development has been analysed in the past, now is perhaps an important time to analyse its implementation specifically in conflict, to ask whether the problems are framed to suit the interventions; whether they ignore the root causes; whether aid extends administrative power; and most importantly, whether the peacebuilding aid discourse is useful in suppressing particular political activities while supporting others.

Rights-based aid

7. If these questions are to be asked, now is possibly also an appropriate time to examine alternatives. Current trends in aid indicate a broad-based shift toward a human rights perspective, which takes international humanitarian law as its point of reference. OXFAM International, for example, now works to promote social, cultural and economic rights, emphasising structural inequalities and architectures such as the World Trade Organisation and International Financial Institutions, rather than considering its aid as charity (Offenheiser and Holcombe, 2003: 282). OXFAM examples of such rights-based work range from advocacy for global debt relief to advocacy against a mine in Peru (ibid: 273, 288). They note that other organisations, such as Save the Children, World Vision and CARE, are also shifting to a rights-based approach that includes advocacy (ibid: 285). The UK Department for International Development has stated the importance of advocacy and protection (House of Commons International Development Committee, 2004: 64). At a more managerial, policy level, a recent publication, The Reality of Aid 2004, 'sets out an urgent call for donors and developing country partners to live up to binding obligations under international human rights law,' (Reality of Aid Network, 2004b: 1). The report is partly in response to the 'securitization of aid', referring to the use of aid for donor countries' security interests rather than recipients' needs (Reality of Aid Network, 2004a: 2). In response to this trend, the Reality of Aid Network, a group of more than 40 civil society organisations from around the world, emphasises a rights-based approach to aid and peacebuilding (Reality of Aid Network, 2004b: 3). The recommendations of the Network are indicative of a growing grassroots response to aid policy as a whole, and to aid in conflict areas in specific.

8. In terms of protection, Gerald Martone of the International Rescue Committee, notes that aid agencies can fail 'to address the very conditions that demand their services' :

Assistance agencies that conspire in this peculiar segregation of duties--relief versus protection--are failing to meet their moral burden...It is no longer acceptable for the protection of human rights to be either an unwonted or an unwanted aspect of the work of assistance agencies. (Martone, 2002)

Martone suggests specific strategies: 'establishing information centres and legal aid services, liaison and 'protective accompaniment' and capacity-building for national NGOs, justice workers and district authorities' (Martone, 2002: 38). The work of Richard Caplan provides a nuanced assessment and day-to-day details of UN involvement in areas such as Eastern Slavonia, post-Dayton Bosnia, and East Timor (Baskin, 2003). Cramer and Goodhand argue for similar intervention in Afghanistan, to strengthen the state rather than tribal factions (2002: 905). Some post-conflict experts have criticised the mundaneness of soldiers 'escorting children to school,' since this does not fully utilise soldiers' 'comparative advantage' (Feil, 2002: 99). Often, such activities are undertaken by volunteer workers among 'international peace teams', which have yet to be recognised as being part of the aid community. The case of international peace teams epitomises the split between aid and advocacy/protection. For this reason, the following section introduces a brief history of international peace teams, and raises the question of why they are excluded from the aid community, and why their work is rarely paralleled by advocacy and protection among aid agencies.

International peace teams

9. The concept of international peace teams is based on a disparity between a country's treatment of an oppressed population and its treatment of internationals. This depends, however, on how 'western' the international appears (Giacaman, pers. comm.). The assumption is that the presence of international witnesses and non-violent resisters will deter aggressive actions by the dominant force. Internationals also use their relative mobility to transport food, medical supplies, or persons in need of medical treatment through military checkpoints or curfews. Members of international peace teams document violations of human rights, and seek to end illegal activities by drawing international attention to them.

10. Groups that operate in numerous countries include Peace Brigades International (PBI), and the Mennonite-based Christian Peacemaker Teams. Other groups have formed temporarily but either were later disbanded, such as the Gulf Peace Teams, or shifted in their focus, such as Witness for Peace, which focuses on advocacy and no longer sends non-violent resisters to conflict areas (Passion, 2000: 19, 24). Some of the best literature available on international peace teams is related specifically to PBI, such as the 1997 book by Mahony and Eguren, Unarmed bodyguards. The following paragraphs draw information from the PBI website (PBI, 2004). Formed in 1981, the organisation has now established over two decades of experience in non-violent 'direct action':

To act directly is to address the actual issue of your concern. If you're working against hunger, it might be simply giving someone a meal...If you want to stop military spending, it might be refusing to pay your income taxes...Direct action differs from symbolic protest action, which is lobbying someone in authority to change their policies. An advantage to direct action is that it doesn't require the cooperation of the authority to be effective. (Kelley, 2004: 1)

PBI was established through the collaborative work of Gandhi's 'successor', the Shanti Sena army (see Shepard, 1987), and the World Peace Brigades.

11. PBI projects have covered eighteen countries. Starting in Central America with Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, PBI then expanded to Sri Lanka, North America, the Balkans, Haiti, Colombia, Mexico and Indonesia. Several country-projects were subdivided into further sections. In North America, for example, PBI groups formed across the continent, where projects such as golf courses, hydro dams, and mines for gold and coal were proposed on indigenous lands. Four small-scale projects were initiated in Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, South Africa and Austria (related to the 1993 World Tribunal in Salzburg).

12. In PBI's early work in Nicaragua, it attempted to position volunteers between forces in conflict. Through experience, PBI later replaced this with several key strategies, including 'protective accompaniment', advocacy and local networking. Protective accompaniment is especially relevant when individual persons or communities are targeted; internationals' presence acts as a deterrent. In the Balkans, accompaniment also involved being present during forced evictions, court trials, and marches. An additional strategy, key to the Balkan project, was local awareness-raising. For instance, a group of Serb students once accompanied PBI to an Albanian youth group meeting and a non-violent march. Upon witnessing violent suppression of the march by Serb police, the students were able to report back their experiences to their community.

13. While PBI itself is modestly skeptical of its effects, lawyers, women's organisations, and human/civil rights associations say it has kept people alive, provided safety and security, and prevented aggression, assassination, disappearance, torture, and displacement. For organisations, it has enabled them to travel, 'live without fear', work, dialogue, defend international humanitarian law, and exist. It has provided refugees safe passage, and enabled them to return and rebuild social structures.

14. More revealing are some of the comments received from ambassadors, ministers of state, and United Nations representatives. They note repeatedly that the international community needs PBI 'fulfilling this role', 'as an example of humanitarian action' for protection. Quotes refer to PBI as a 'unique model', 'indispensable' and 'exemplary'. The underlying message is that while PBI's mandate is to protect and advocate, it is the sole organisation so mandated. Comments from local organisations mention that PBI is 'different from most other international NGOs', and that without its presence for cases of threatened persons, organisations would be 'at a total loss'. One organisation embarked upon 'demonstrating to the government, NGOs, and society in general' the viability of PBI protection strategies.

15. If the need for advocacy and protection is apparent, and the possibility of providing it is proven, then it is puzzling that the example of international peace teams has not yet been brought into discussions on aid in conflict regions. One possibility is that some aid agencies are not willing or able to integrate advocacy and protection as central goals or strategies. If the gap can be filled by international peace teams, aid agencies can continue to bypass 'political' aspects like human rights while pursuing their own goals. This possibility is explored in the case study below.

Case study: Palestine

16. The purpose of this case study is to examine: what peacebuilding aid accomplishes and who adopts it, where and why a rights-based approach is coming to the fore, and how suppression of rights-based activities is taking place. Palestine has received pledges of over US$4 billion since the peace accords of 1993 (Brynen, 2000: 3). International aid has been of particular benefit to Palestinians in the past four years (Rabah, pers. comm.). Because of Palestine's relatively long history with peacebuilding aid, its example is being recommended for duplication elsewhere; this doubly necessitates a current evaluation of peacebuilding aid strategies and their effects.

17. In September 1993, the same month as the first signing of the Oslo Accords, the World Bank issued a six-volume report: 'Developing the Occupied Territories: An investment in peace'. It recommended an immediate investment of US$35 million in 'technical assistance', meaning mostly donor country personnel and organisations, followed by another US$50 million, all to be spent in the three months before end-1993 (World Bank, 1993: 25). Six years later, US$450 million, almost one-fifth of donor aid, had been spent on technical assistance (Government of Japan and World Bank, 2000: 107, cited in Giacaman, Abdul-Rahim, and Wick, 2003: 65). The United States, although not the largest donor, had the highest contributions to technical assistance (Zagha, Jamal, and Barbeau, 1997a: 47). In 1997, over 80% of US technical assistance fell into the 'somewhat ambiguous' Other category as defined by the World Bank (ibid.). In the same year, US$125 million of US aid was channeled through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, effectively going to US investors, not Palestinians (ibid.).

18. Although technical assistance is mentioned by some, critics of the peacebuilding aid strategy in Palestine usually focus on aid as a substitute for social and political justice. An early example is the creation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 1948. Parry (2002) explains that resentment toward UNRWA was not a rejection of aid, but rather a rejection of aid as a substitute for political action:

Because UNRWA's mandate has never included the resettlement of refugees, the agency's 'care and maintenance' activities have been widely interpreted as a failed attempt to appease a population with humanitarian action in lieu of durable political solutions. (Parry, 2002: 6)

The key criticism is that bitter political impositions are covered in a sugar coating of humanitarian aid. Perry Anderson describes the Oslo Accords, and the 'peace process' that brought them, as 'lubricated in the interim by generous Euro-American donations to the Palestinian Authority' (2001: 18).

19. Donors have persistently promoted peacebuilding aid as a technical activity. The 1993 World Bank mission emphasised its role as a ' technical mission', with neither the mandate nor the expertise to deal with political or security aspects [emphasis in original]' (World Bank, 1993: 1). Its economic scenarios and investment predictions are cast in technical language. An anticipated 'phaseout from the Israeli labor market', the report explains, might turn out to be 'sharp' or 'smooth' (World Bank, 1993: 15). Each possibility would then affect the 'growth rate' (ibid). Over US$1.5 billion was therefore required for Palestinians' 'investment needs'. A close reading of the text, however, shows that aid served only to ease the transition and facilitate the ethnic 'phasing out' of Palestinian workers:

Preliminary analysis indicates that the investments proposed for the medium term should directly generate about 70,000 man-years of employment in construction works, i.e. the equivalent of about 14,000 full time jobs for the 5-year period of Phase II. Considering that many of the Palestinians employed in Israel have been construction workers, the implementation of the proposed program should, thus, help reduce significantly the adverse effects of the shrinking employment opportunities in Israel. (World Bank, 2003: 24)

This was the explanation of funds for 'investment needs'; all remaining funds recommended by the report were allocated to 'technical assistance needs'.

20. One of the most damaging aspects of casting the situation in technical terms was the inapplicability of 'development plans' (Giacaman et al., 2005: 8). The national plans for health, water, the environment, and virtually all categories of 'development', were predicated on the assumption of free passage, Palestinian control over resources, and restoration of human rights. Yet, as some researchers were able to point out, 'sustainable development' was unsustainable under military occupation (ARIJ, 1997: 32). As early as 1997, it was observed that aid could not 'further the development effort' because it was required 'to offset the tremendous losses caused by Israeli policies' (Zagha, Jamal, and Barbeau, 1997b: 9): the four years since the signing of the [Declaration of Principles], the airport and sea port so crucial to Palestinian economic development have been blocked by Israel; likewise the safe passage route...between the West Bank and Gaza has not been constructed. Nor have there been the extensive Israeli redeployments agreed to...Instead a systematic policy of closures has become a fact of life for Palestinians... (Zagha, Jamal, and Barbeau, 1997b: 8)

21. Most illustrative of this has been the aid for highly localised infrastructure, designed to relieve some of the tension caused by Israeli travel restrictions. Women prevented from reaching hospitals by military checkpoints, for example, are now being provided with village-based maternity centers (Giacaman et al., 2005: 8). Removing the checkpoints is considered 'the principal remedy to birthing women's woes as well as country level ones' (R. Giacaman, pers. comm.). Yet the maternity centers were donors' response to the problem. The implicit message of such top-down, externally imposed, 'de facto' policy creation, not to mention the absence of opposition to the checkpoints themselves, is that grassroots, long-term development is not the aim (Giacaman, Abdul-Rahim, and Wick, 2003: 65).

22. The case of Palestine is now used and recommended by donors and researchers as an application of the peacebuilding aid discourse. Technical assistance, 'self-implementation' and international bidding for development projects are encouraged (because of the presumed corruption of aid recipients) (Balaj and Wallich, 1999: 4). Using aid to compensate for Palestinian losses caused by Israel is seen as being 'flexible' and responsive to the conflict situation. The involvement and influence of Israel in decisions regarding aid to Palestinians is considered a positive precedent worth repeating (ibid: 3, 4). The very idea that aid is for its recipients is questioned:

... with so many vested historical, national, economic, commercial and political interests in this very high-profile hotspot, it is unrealistic to expect that donors will eventually cede the lead role solely to the Palestinians. (ibid: 3, cited in Giacaman, Abdul-Rahim, and Wick, 2003: 66)

In sum, the fact that aid was not only conditional but also controlled 'multilaterally' (including donors and Israel) is clearly stated...and recommended for replication elsewhere.

Suppression of rights-based aid

23. Even with major donor trends toward the peacebuilding aid strategies cited above, many organisations have nevertheless sought a rights-based approach. Numerous Palestinian non-governmental organisations work on human rights, specialising in issues concerning refugees, the media, women, Jerusalem, land and water rights, primary health care, and prisoners of conscience. Various international organisations have been forthcoming in funding these activities, and a select few have attempted to engage in advocacy. International peace teams have also sought to contribute their services. In addition, two formal monitoring initiatives have taken place. The first, which is still ongoing, is the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). TIPH began as a group of observers from six European countries, sent in 1994 after Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi mosque (Smith, 2004: 2).

However, TIPH was rendered ineffectual due to several constraints placed upon it. First, its personnel were forbidden to intervene in order to protect civilians, and they were restricted to observing and reporting the human rights violations taking place in front of them. Second, the reports that TIPH compiled could not be made public, and their distribution was limited to the six European governments that contributed to TIPH, plus the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. This meant that the findings of TIPH could not be used to exert public pressure on the authorities to improve conditions for Palestinian civilians. (ibid)

Prior to TIPH was the short-lived United Nations monitoring effort in 1990/1991, after Israeli soldiers killed 17 Palestinians in the al-Aqsa mosque. This faded quickly: 'The beginning of the Madrid peace talks eclipsed the UN initiative, and the United States argued that further [UN monitoring] reports would interfere with the start of the political process,' (ibid).

24. Despite pressure to move away from a rights-based approach, the need for such an approach is increasingly being felt. In Palestine, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) described the situation as a 'man-made' disaster requiring advocacy to tackle 'the cause of the problem' (House of Commons International Development Committee, 2004: 64). A UK government report concurred, noting that, 'it is difficult to see how development organisations can avoid being involved in advocacy,' (ibid). The report envisioned an advocacy role for the UK Department for International Development, to move both aid and foreign policy closer to a rights-based approach, 'consistent with all the parties' obligations under international law,' (ibid: 65). Analysis of the situation by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network also concluded that advocacy was a much-needed activity (Lütgenau, Schade-Poulsen and Roos, 2004) . They recommended that, 'a clear link needs to be made by the European governments regarding Israel's privileged partnership with the EU and its respect for human rights,' (ibid: 21). Meanwhile, in March 2004, the Quaker United Nations Office published a briefing essay suggesting options for protection of civilians (Smith, 2004). This built on a previous paper, 'International protection: Perceptions and possibilities' (Al Haq, 2003). The core idea was repeated in an Oxfam publication in May 2004, based on the responsibility to protect under international humanitarian law (Maycock, Hill and Menuchin, 2004). Notable about the publication is its clear distinction between peacebuilding aid and rights-based aid. With respect to the peace process, Oxfam writes, 'international humanitarian law is not to be tacked on to a political process, but should be intrinsic to it,' (ibid: 7). They repeat in their press release that protection 'should not be bargained for - it must be guaranteed' (Oxfam International, 2004: 1).

25. The following paragraphs describe the reaction toward these activities. They focus on a website developed specifically to monitor local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Palestine and Israel. The site, NGO Monitor, is published by Dore Gold, former advisor to Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, and developed by a team based in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (of which Dore Gold is president). The Monitor provides 'independent and critical analysis' to compensate for the NGO sector's 'democratic deficit' and lack of 'rigorous standards of accountability for the statements and reports they produce' (NGO Monitor, 2004a,b):

NGO Monitor's objective is to end to [sic] the practice used by certain self-declared 'humanitarian NGOs' of exploiting the label 'universal human rights values' to promote politically and ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas. (NGO Monitor, 2004a)

The Monitor takes issue with those who 'publicize distortions of human rights issues ' and who display ' selective morality', 'misleading reporting', 'incomplete images', and 'gross distortions' (ibid).

26. An example is the report on Christian Aid, which objects to their 'façade' of being 'neutral', 'charitable' and 'humanitarian' (NGO Monitor, 2004d). It criticises their references to international law for being 'political', and labels their recent film on Palestinian poverty as 'propaganda'. Christian Aid fact-finding missions for British and Irish members of parliament are criticised for not including visits to Israeli representatives. The report describes Christian Aid press releases and campaigns, the organisations to which Christian Aid donates, and in some detail, the financial sources for its operations.

27. To date, the organisation monitors 64 organisations, including the UN (UNICEF, UNHCR, UNRWA), legal, health and human rights associations (Médecins Sans Frontières, Physicians for Human Rights, Médecins du Monde, International Commission of Jurists, World Organisation Against Torture, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch), US-based organisations (USAID, CARE, Ford Foundation, American Near East Refugee Aid), faith-based organisations (Christian Aid, YMCA/YWCA, World Vision International), and organisations in Israel (New Israel Fund, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Rabbis for Human Rights, B'tselem, Hamoked, Adalah, Ittijah, I'lam, Galilee Society) (NGO Monitor, 2004a).

28. What activities have warranted this examination? A cursory glance at the Ford Foundation's recipients (the example of the Ford Foundation will be studied in more detail below) provides some information. Birzeit University is singled out for sponsoring a tour to South Africa; the organisations Al-Mezan ('scales' of justice) and Al-Dameer ('conscience'), for promoting human rights in Gaza; and the Arab Commission on Human Rights, for its efforts in the International Criminal Court (Kaplan, 2004). A refugee women's center and a policy research center are brought to attention for their participatory research on refugee issues (ibid). Organisations that call for 'international intervention' have also been censured (NGO Monitor, 2004c); so have Israeli organisations like the Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions, B'tselem, the Shefa Fund, and the New Israel Fund, the latter two for their offers to pay war resisters' expenses (Kaplan, 2004).

29. Of all these organisations, those that are 'legal-based' are particularly of interest, and have been the subject of a targeted report, 'Adalah and the impact of legal-based NGOs in the Arab-Israeli conflict' (NGO Monitor, 2003b). In a report entitled, 'Summary of EU funding of politicized NGOs', NGO Monitor describes a chain of funding from the EU, to the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, to a legal NGO called Adalah ('justice') (NGO Monitor, 2004b). NGO Monitor finds 'bias in EU funding for politicized NGOs' and 'large funds' to 'political activities under the banner of humanitarian and human rights' (ibid). Particular attention is paid in the report to Adalah's participation in the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The conference was one of the critical events to trigger pressure on donors (Kaplan, 2004). During the conference an international statement was issued, calling upon the international community to take measures against Israeli 'apartheid' and 'racist' practices (WCAR NGO Forum Declaration, 2001). NGO Monitor's recommendation is that 'it is inappropriate for the EU to fund this highly biased organization', which uses 'highly biased and politicized language', such as 'war crimes', 'crimes against humanity', 'apartheid' and 'institutional racism' (NGO Monitor, 2004b).

Suppression in donor countries

30. While the above-mentioned pressure on the EU is only now reaching its peak, pressure on US organisations has begun to show effects. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ford Foundation, for instance, have been gradually altering their funding practices over the past two years. Pursuant to US President George Bush' Executive Order 13224, USAID in 2003 began asking all its recipient organisations to sign a pledge not to 'provide material support or resources to any individual or entity that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in terrorist activity' (Lütgenau, Schade-Poulsen and Roos, 2004). The pledge was also promoted by the IRS Treasury Department for use among other United States donor organisations (Black, 2003a). It was opposed by the Council of Foundations (representative of numerous philanthropies) and InterAction, the largest American alliance of international humanitarian organisations (Black, 2003a). Palestinian non-governmental organisations refused to sign on the grounds that its terminology was open to interpretation, and thus could be used to suppress legitimate activities (PNGO, 2004). They gave the examples of human rights organisations providing legal assistance to prisoners 'regardless of their political affiliations', and expressed concern that the pledge would be used to limit discussion of the local situation in international fora (PNGO, 2004). On July 12, the State Department announced a transfer of US$20 million, slated for Palestinian non-governmental organisations, to the Palestinian Authority, as a 'loudly spoken' shift in response to their refusal to sign the pledge (Black, 2003a).

31. Various groups in the United States felt that the pledge deserved wider adoption (Cattan, 2003). Efforts focused on the Ford Foundation, considered 'one of the most prestigious' and largest private donors, with an estimated US$10 billion annual budget (ibid). Targeting the Ford Foundation was explicitly linked to the UN World Conference Against Racism (ibid). However, concerned groups had met with the Ford Foundation over the issue of Palestinian organisations as early as 1999 (American Jewish Congress, 2003). The Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) began research into Ford Foundation grantees (NGO Monitor, 2004c) . The JTA published its results under the title 'Funding Hate' (Black, 2003a). The publication criticised Ford recipients for 'efforts to boycott Israel, impose international sanctions and try Israelis as war criminals' (Cattan, 2003). Following this were 'more than two dozen attempts, in writing and by phone, over a several-week period, [to ask] questions regarding specific Palestinian NGOs, or past or present investigations regarding the misuse of specific funds' (Black, 2003a). Demands for 'transparency' arose from the State Department, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee (ibid).

32. The Ford Foundation's initial responses were that they complied with all legal requirements (Black, 2003b), and that the story was 'one-sided and unfair' (Alexander Wilde, Ford Foundation vice president of communications, quoted in Cattan, 2003). They responded specifically to the concerns about Durban saying the events did not comprise 'agitation' (Alexander Wilde, quoted in Black, 2003b). Ford Foundation president, Susan Berresford, explained:

Addressing root causes [of injustice] often means making new kinds of arrangements in public policies, community, and power relationships....It is different from traditional charity--feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless...Social justice philanthropy requires risk-taking, experimentation, managerial oversight, patience, long-term commitment, and a thick skin. Being a social justice philanthropist or activist isn't always comfortable or easy. (quoted in Black, 2003a)

The Foundation's spokesperson continued, 'We do have ongoing conversations with the leadership of the Jewish community and are happy to address any concerns with them directly' (Alexander Wilde, quoted in Cattan, 2003).

33. On October 22, 2003, a letter was issued to the Ford Foundation from Congressional Representative Jerrold Nadler, and signed by 20 members of Congress (Nadler, 2003). In the 2001/2002 election cycle, Rep. Nadler collected $715,534 in campaign contributions, 30 percent of which came from public affairs committees (Feldman, 2003). The letter demanded that the Foundation cut its funding of key Palestinian organisations (Black, 2003b). Another member of Congress, Rep. Henry Waxman, suggested an investigation to end funding of activities 'antithetical to the foundation's mission in support of human rights' (quoted in Cattan, 2003). The suggestion for an investigation was supported by Senator Rick Santorum and Senator Charles Grassley, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee (Kaplan, 2004; American Jewish Congress, 2003). The American Jewish Congress (AJC) suggested that the US Congress 'examine the tax-exempt status of organisations such as the Ford Foundation' (Cattan, 2003). The AJC considered filing a lawsuit (ibid). Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, suggested media scrutiny may be sufficient, but also considered investigation by 'Congress, the IRS or another federal body' (ibid). He criticised the Foundation for funding 'at best questionable organizations and causes, and at worst organizations undermining the interest of the United States and its allies' (quoted in Black, 2003a). There were also 'indications from the IRS, State Department and Justice Department that officials would review Ford's funding' (Black, 2003b). Even the FBI was 'called on' to intervene (Cattan, 2003). The AJC noted that 'the Ford Foundation can preempt governmental scrutiny by ending current funding practices in the Palestinian areas' (quoted in Tampa Bay Primer, 2003). The events raised questions in the US concerning the power Congress may exercise over private donor institutions (SSIR, 2004).

34. On Tuesday, November 17, 2003, The Ford Foundation issued a 5-page response to Rep. Nadler (Black, 2003b; Ford Foundation, 2003). Up until the day before, Foundation representatives had been meeting with Rep. Nadler and representatives of Jewish groups:

On Monday Beresford had an hour-long meeting in her office with Foxman, who has been active in the effort to address Ford's funding. It was one of several meetings Berresford had with Jewish organizational leaders since the publication of the JTA series. (Black, 2003b)

The Ford Foundation viewed the consultations as learning 'measures that we and others can take to avoid repetition of the negative dynamics of Durban' (Susan Berresford, quoted in Black, 2003b). Part of the letter denounced the events in Durban, and promised a further review 'in consultation with key American Jewish community organizations and others, of Ford grantees' actions at Durban' (Black, 2003b; Berresford, 2003: 2, 4). The Foundation altered its standard grant agreement letter to resemble the USAID Certificate, and cooperation toward developing future programs was promised (Berresford, 2003: 3, 5). The letter also introduced 'a new KPMG-developed 'risk matrix'...which will automatically trigger an audit when certain financial accounting factors warrant' (Nadler, 2003). Rep. Nadler commended the steps the Foundation took 'voluntarily' (ibid). Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President of B'nai Brith International, concluded, 'We hope this will end the anti-Israel diatribe so prevalent during Durban,' (quoted in Nadler, 2003). These and similar comments, together with the Ford Foundation letter, reinforced the connection between the events described above and the NGO Declaration at the UN World Conference Against Racism.

35. The measures adopted, however, were not only retroactive against the NGO Declaration, and were not considered solely for the Ford Foundation. The KPMG risk matrix would be 'piloted in the Middle East and then used by Ford around the world' (Nadler, 2003). The new auditing system could 'impact donors everywhere' (Black, 2003b); the Foundation would 'make it available to other donors who request it' (Berresford, 2003: 4). According to Rep. Nadler, 'Ford's actions will serve as a model for other US philanthropic institutions that do work around the world,' (Nadler, 2003). Others hoped the Foundations actions would 'serve as a model for other donor institutions' (American Jewish Committee) and 'set new standards for funding social action in the non-profit sector' (Women's Zionist Organization of America) (ibid). They called on other organisations to 'also make the necessary corrections' (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations) in order to achieve 'a more dynamic and involved assessment process for the funding of NGOs' (B'nai Brith) (Black, 2003b; Nadler, 2003). NGO Monitor reported that, 'two dozen universities have signed the new grant agreements without comment', and that the 'Rockefeller Foundation has adopted similar guidelines' (NGO Monitor, 2004c). Thus, the events concerning the Ford Foundation set a precedent and 'model' concerning advocacy and protection.

36. This raises concerns about the prospects for a rights-based approach to aid. The example of Palestine illustrates how a rights-based approach can be gradually phased out, marginalised and de-legitimised. The effects are not only financial, in terms of the funding shifts mentioned above; they also influence the legitimacy, and therefore the likelihood, of human rights being protected. Local advocacy and protection efforts are not only reliant on funds, but also on the support of the international community; international humanitarian law, by definition, relies on all peoples for its implementation and enforcement. While the funding cuts mentioned above are significant, the greater significance lies in the isolation of Palestinian, Israeli and international voices for human rights. Not only may international organisations hesitate to fund advocacy and protection activities, they may themselves avoid engaging in or associating with such activities.

International peace teams: Compensating, again?

37. If this happens, the question is whether in Palestine, like in other parts of the world, international peace teams will be used to fill the gap:

The legal case certainly exists for such a [Protection/Observation] force in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories], but the Israeli government is extremely unlikely to consent to it, and the US remains opposed. Whilst such political constraints continue, the task of monitoring and protecting civilian welfare will continue to fall on civil society initiatives... (Smith, 2004: 5)

38. 38. Already, a number of international peace teams operate in the West Bank. Only some of these groups work in the Gaza Strip, such as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI). Among other aims, international peace teams in the West Bank and Gaza Strip seek to monitor and/or deter house demolitions, land expropriation, destruction of agricultural land and other property, attacks on civilians, and other violent activities by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) or settlers ( individuals who establish and inhabit settlements in occupied territories, contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits transfer of an occupying population to occupied lands). Groups include the ISM, the EAPPI, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Grassroots Internationals for Peace in Palestine (GIPP), Makhsoum ('checkpoint') Watch, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS), and Palestine 10,000 (P10K). 

39. The Christian Peacemaker Teams have worked in the West Bank town of al-Khalil (Hebron) since 1989 (CPT, 2000). One of the first teams to conduct similar work was Grassroots Internationals for Peace in Palestine, administered by the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). A more recent addition is Makhsoum Watch, an Israeli initiative to monitor and document human rights violations by soldiers or settlers at Israeli checkpoints. Another, similarly specialised group is the Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions (ICAHD, 2003). In the northern West Bank, the International Women's Peace Service brings in volunteers from North and South America, Africa, Australia and Europe (IWPS, 2003). International volunteers also comprise the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (World Council of Churches, 2004). An aborted attempt to bring 10,000 volunteers in 2004 still continues (O'Keefe, 2004). Lastly, perhaps the most widely known of these organisations is the International Solidarity Movement, formed in 2001 (see Seitz, 2003).

40. Much of the work of international peace teams is simply to record what goes unrecorded by the international media. In July of 2004, for instance, the IDF took control of three Palestinian homes in the Old City of Nablus. The ISM entered one of the homes to find its 23 inhabitants squeezed on top of one another in a small storage room. They had been kept inside for over 16 hours, despite the lack of oxygen and trapped body heat. The ISM released the information through electronic mail and personal communication with international media (Hansson, pers. comm.). At times, and with the support of numbers of Palestinian women, men and children, international peace teams are able to act as deterrents. Army jeeps, for example, which frequently enter Balata refugee camp in Nablus, have been deterred on several occasions by sit-ins blocking the entrance to the camp (ibid).

41. Like with the international peace teams in the Balkans, some activities have served as awareness-raising among Israelis. A five-month peace camp in the northern West Bank was 'for many Israeli men and women...the first occasion they spent time and slept in a Palestinian village' (IWPS, 2004: 2). Awareness-raising, internationally also, seems to be one of the primary aims of international peace teams in Palestine. This has both positive and negative effects. A recent example involved internationals passing a checkpoint without displaying identification, as passive resistance to the system of checkpoints (ISM, 2004b). Palestinians, however, were left behind and obliged by the soldiers to display identification (ibid). Even when internationals and Palestinians act together, sometimes the roles are reversed: Palestinians protect internationals. One woman recalled a recent anti-Apartheid Wall protest where, in the clouds of tear gas, she accompanied internationals into a butcher's shop and opened the fridge doors for oxygen (the term 'Apartheid Wall' refers to the 730-km, US$3.4 billion Wall that Israel is building in the West Bank, mostly with concrete blocks up to 25 feet in height, armed watchtowers and a 'buffer zone' 30-100 meters wide for electric fences, trenches, cameras, sensors, and military patrol; some of the Wall consists of layers of razor wire, military patrol roads, sand paths to trace footprints, ditches and surveillance cameras; see Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, 2005).

42. Increasingly, however, these articles are about the detention and refused entry to ISM members themselves, rather than conditions of Palestinians. Fourteen of 71 articles cover this subject, two-thirds of which were published in 2004. Israeli reactions to the international peace teams have been harsh. ISM volunteer Rachel Corrie was bulldozed to death; her colleague Brian Avery survived being shot in the face with live ammunition; Thomas Hurndall was shot in the head and died after nearly nine months in a coma (Lütgenau, Schade-Poulsen and Roos, 2004). Other ISM volunteers have been shot in the hands and feet (ISM, 2004a). They have also been imprisoned and deported (ibid). IWPS volunteers have been attacked by settlers, resulting in their hospitalisation, and imprisoned by soldiers (IWPS, 2003). ICAHD volunteers have been beaten by soldiers in the course of house demolitions (Halper, 2001). CPT volunteers have been repeatedly beaten by soldiers and settlers (CPT, 2003). At the level of discourse, NGO Monitor criticises the ISM for 'sabotaging sensitive military operations', 'interfering in legitimate counter terror operations' and even posing a threat to soldiers' lives (NGO Monitor, 2003a). According to NGO Monitor, ISM is the 'anti-thesis of a human-rights organization', using the 'rhetoric of human rights' and pretending to be a 'humanitarian NGO'. Objections are made to its 'public relations' with diplomats, journalists and the press.

43. Yet even if international peace teams were not suppressed, their capacity to protect would remain small, and to advocate on others' behalf, even smaller. The purpose of international peace teams has never been to supplant local organisations. Their ability to assist local organisations is limited, and the peace teams themselves are in need of resources. Palestinians are often a key source of support for the teams; they frequently provide room and board while refusing compensation as a matter of principle (Bakewell, pers. comm.). The use of 'civil society initiatives' to substitute for political action is clearly inadequate, in Palestine or elsewhere. The dynamics of reduced support to local initiatives, combined with the addition of internationals as the only individuals whose rights are respected (and even this, as mentioned above, is violable), serves only to underline how un-universal the applications of universal human rights are. As efforts intensify to mute local organisations, international peace teams remain important as much for their alert to unmet needs as for their services per se. The following section of this essay revisits these issues and their implications for aid policy.


44. As evidenced in the opening sections on peacebuilding and rights-based aid, there are certainly initiatives to shift toward an approach based on international humanitarian and human rights law. International non-governmental organisations, and even some bilateral donors are now looking to advocacy and protection as valid aid activities. The case study above describes the challenges to such initiatives. Some would argue these challenges are unique to the Palestinian case, and that opposition to rights-based aid is narrowed to a single lobby present in Israel and the United States, and that peacebuilding aid is not antithetical to rights-based aid. I would argue otherwise. There are examples of international intervention for the protection of civilians, such as in the Balkans and Afghanistan, but researchers of these examples emphasise their uniqueness in strategic relations; in other words, intervention was not purely altruistic (Baskin, 165). Like critics of development, critics of peacebuilding aid question the relevance of aid when structural inequities are at fault for social, economic and political decline. In past years, poststructuralist scholars have 'examined the politics that is central to the production of the development discourse' (Agrawal, 1996: 465). For example, in analyzing the failure of development projects in Lesotho, Ferguson (1997) argued that the projects targeted invented problems and ignored real ones. The invented problems conveniently matched the interventions favoured by donors (ibid: 226). Interventions were then implemented as 'development' actions, but served as platforms for the state government (ibid: 227). Overall, development discourse served as an 'anti-politics machine', claiming to be apolitical and discouraging grassroots political activity, while generating political outcomes (ibid: 232).

45. This has strong parallels with peacebuilding aid. The result of peacebuilding aid is not only the pursuit of particular political goals (such as implementing donor-favored interventions and maintaining structural inequalities) but also the suppression of a rights-based approach, which at times is compensated for by international peace teams. Unfortunately, however, the efficacy of international peace teams relies on the double standards the world has concerning the permissibility of human rights violations. Protective accompaniment, for example, works because aggressive forces are more reluctant to violate the rights of an international than a local person. Again, this has been found to differ depending on how 'western' the international appears. What can be done to a local person without the world hearing about it (media threshold) or doing something about it (public threshold) is more than that for an international. The same is true at an organisational level. Local organisations are given less international media and public attention than international organisations. So when aid agencies cut funds to local organisations, the international community does not hear about it except perhaps from the aid agency. While apolitical organisations rise in precedence, 'political' (human rights) organisations are thus weakened.

46. Given this double standard, two directions are possible. Each or both thresholds can be lowered, or raised. International peace teams seek to lower the threshold of permissible violence by drawing attention to human rights violations taking place. When these teams are marginalised, however, not only does their strategy have less effect, but they themselves face a rising threshold. The marginalisation of protection and advocacy as 'dangerous' activities only serves to make them more dangerous. International peace teams are dependent on the outside legitimacy they are given (through the media and as citizens of their countries) and not on arms (Mahony and Eguren, 1997). The more legitimacy they are given, the safer protection can be. Ironically, marginalising protection and claiming it as too dangerous, simply makes it more so. To restore human rights, organisations must not back away from protection and advocacy, thereby raising the level of permissible violence by states against individuals, but should instead move closer until human rights violations are no longer permissible.

47. International peace teams describe themselves as 'creating space' for local activities: advocacy, human rights work, and as evidenced in the example of PBI, refugee return (Mahony and Eguren, 1997). It is important that the aid community share this goal. If local legal, health and human rights associations are suppressed, and it is clear from the lists of peace team affiliates and 'monitoring group' blacklists that these are the associations targeted, then who will be left to protect and advocate for human rights? Once again, the exclusion of advocacy and protection from the peacebuilding aid agenda, serves to increase the scope for human rights violations. What kind of peace, then, does aid-for-peace create?


Nadia Abu-Zahra is a DPhil student at the School of Geography & the Environment, University of Oxford. Her research interests include human rights, environmental health, education, and the use of geographic information systems. Email:

Author's note

I would like to thank Barbara Bakewell, Rita Giacaman, Anita Abdullah, Dan Brockington, Kanishka Goonewardena, Baha Abushaqra, Rex Brynen, Jamil Rabah and two anonymous reviewers for their contributions.


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