Post from Nora Murad, Dalia Association, published on 22nd November 2011.
A visit to the outlying rural areas of Palestine always cheers me up. Although life is hard there – military occupation entwined with poverty – the people are inspiring. Grassroots civil society activists are knowledgeable and committed, but their voices are too often sidelined from debates about aid and development effectiveness. As a volunteer with Dalia Association, Palestine’s first community foundation, I have the honor of helping to elevate the voices of grassroots civil society activists in the aid debate.
Recently, Dalia Association launched research that gives valuable insight into what grassroots civil society actors think about the problems and solutions to aid ineffectiveness. Their top two complaints were 1) most donors fund relief, not development; and 2) use of intermediaries (international and national) can harm local civil society’s effectiveness and sustainability. These are important insights that deserve serious attention.
Their top two recommendations were also provocative. They called 1) for donors to select and evaluate civil society grantees fairly and transparently (something many internationals believe they already do); and, 2) for all international aid and development actors to fulfill their commitments (e.g., pay on time). The full report goes into detail helping readers understand how the international aid system, unintentionally perhaps, has the collective impact of undermining the rights, priorities, capacities and hope of local communities.
“We hope that our participation in the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness will enable us to highlight the problems we and other aid-dependent civil societies face, but more importantly, we hope to inspire cross-sector dialogue about how we can solve these problems,” said Saeeda Mousa, acting director of Dalia Association
In the run-up to the HLF4, Dalia Association released their research, launched a petition that has gathered over 1100 signatures in support of Palestinian self-determination in the aid process, produced a short and powerful film in which grassroots activists speak for themselves about their opinions about aid, and reached out across civil society through meetings and advertisements in order to pull together a group to continue advocacy post-Busan.
“Dalia Association will be as active as possible in Busan,” Saeeda explains. “We will take part in a panel about aid to conflict affected and fragile states during the civil society forum and will run a knowledge and innovation workshop about aid reform during the main meeting. We are also pleased that our film will show in the media room and our ePoster will display in the exhibit hall. It highlights community foundations as mechanisms for local ownership over internationally-funded development.”
The real work, however, will take place when local Palestinian civil society sits with international NGOs and donors to hash out mechanisms for accountability that will fundamentally improve aid in Palestine. It will take time, but we hope it will inspire and inform other local efforts in aid-dependent places to also claim their rights in the aid process. By sharing our experiences, we can come to solutions faster. For this reason, Dalia Association invites cooperation not only with Palestinian CSOs, but also with colleagues in the global south and north who are struggling with similar issues.
Nora Lester Murad, PhD can be contacted at noralestermurad [at] gmail [dot] com or via Dalia Association at info [at] dalia [dot] ps.