Dear NGO Monitor,
We would like to respond to allegations made in the article published by the NGO Monitor website 'EU funds for NGOs misused' (Vol 2, No.1, dated 11.9.03) This article contains information which is both incorrect and misleading.
The article purports to provide evidence that EU funding to NGOs working in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been used, "to pursue a narrow anti-Israel ideological agenda designed to deligitimize Israel". This is simply not true and no evidence of this sort can be found in the article.
It is obvious that the authors lack even a basic knowledge of the objectives of our financial support, of the various budget lines employed by the EU in the region and of the strict conditions and criteria involved. If they had contacted our offices, we would have been happy to provide this information.
The claim that the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) works through the European Commission Technical Assistance Office (ECTAO) to the West Bank and Gaza Strip is incorrect. The EIDHR, which is a worldwide EU programme to support Human Rights and Democracy in partner countries, is managed through European Commission Headquarters in Brussels. Project proposals are presented following a call for proposal issued in Brussels and based in medium-term priorities defined by the European Commission's 'Communication on EU's Role in promoting Human Rights and Democratisation in Third Countries' and a multi-annual programming document See http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/human_rights/doc/index.htm
The projects are then selected by a Brussels-based committee and European Commission Delegations simply provide advice and monitor implementation once a project has been approved. This is the procedure used for all countries and regions, including Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The article also claims that EIDHR enjoys very close links with the Chairman of the PA, Yasser Arafat. This allegation is nonsensical. A key requirement of the EIDHR is to function independently of any state authority and rather to work directly with civil society organisations or international organisations. There are therefore no links whatsoever between the EIDHR and Mr Arafat or any other official of the Palestinian Authority.
Support from EIDHR projects should be distinguished from development cooperation instruments such as the MEDA programme (the financial instrument of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership) which indeed works in partnership with national and local authorities, including the Palestinian Authority of West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The extract from the ECTAO website quoted in the article to support the allegation that the Palestinian Authority interferes with the EIDHR funded project, does not refer to EIDHR but to the MEDA development programme activities and is therefore extremely misleading. As mentioned, it is the policy of the European Commission that development cooperation actions should be programmed and designed in partnership with recipient authorities as they need to be consistent with the general development policy in the country or region in question. This approach applies worldwide, as it does to the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The article highlights EIDHR funding of a project submitted by the Israeli NGO I'LAM, which is defined as a political tool that presents a distorted picture of Israeli press. Nothing is mentioned in the article on the content of the project which is to develop local Arab-Israeli media and enhance the quality and coverage of Human Rights issues in particular in relation to the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel. The targets of the project are both Arab and Jewish Israeli media professionals. The project was selected following a transparent selection process and meets EIDHR priorities for Israel (to enhance coverage of Human Rights issues in the media). The European Commission believes that a lively, critical and pluralistic civil society is essential for a healthy democracy. This clearly does not necessarily mean that the European Commission endorses or subscribes to all views expressed by partner NGOs throughout the world, including those in Israel.
Regarding projects funded by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), we cannot accept your accusation that the EC finances political organizations: ECHO strictly conforms to the most important benchmark for the delivering of humanitarian aid, namely to provide aid to those in distress, irrespective of their race, religion and political beliefs. We strongly believe that only offering a decent life can undermine the spread of violence and hatred. In addition to this, your statement that ECHO provides financing for 'several hundred million euro' is incorrect. ECHO's financing for Palestinians since 2000 amounts to 105 million euro, including funding to UN agencies, European NGOs and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Regarding the 'People to People' programme, (now called the 'EU Partnership for Peace Programme') we would like to stress that its objective is not to support one or the other political camp but to encourage dialogue and cooperation among civil society across the divide. Recent calls for proposals under this programme have attracted large numbers of applications from a wide spectrum of NGOs. While some of the NGOs which have applied for support might be critical of one or other aspect of government policy, this is by no means a criterion for acceptance of this or that project.
The article alleges that UNRWA schools teach hatred and encourage incitement. UNRWA has already refuted such claims on numerous occasions in the past. The European Commission is the second most important donor to UNRWA, after the United States. Surely you cannot imagine that the United States, the European Union and all other major donors for that matter would support a UN Agency if it was responsible for inciting hatred and violence through its support for Palestinian education?
The primary objective of the EU is to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict in line with the Roadmap, based on two states living in peace and harmony within recognised international borders. It is therefore inconceivable that we would conduct activities which could be used to promote hatred and violence or put innocent lives in danger. This goes against the very principles upon which the whole European Union is based.
The conclusions reached in your article are based on information which is either inaccurate and tendentious, or even worse - on information which has been distorted. We therefore reject outright these claims.
Ambassador Giancarlo CHEVALLARD
Head of the EU Commission Delegation to the State of Israel
European Commission Representative for the West Bank and Gaza Strip