The Swedish Government has supported Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) for over 30 years and it has been administered mainly through SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) and other agencies.
This has been of crucial importance for the civil sector in Palestine that provides basic services, encourages a culture of democracy and equality, and advocates for Palestinian rights. The funding has been directed towards the support of sectors such as education, health, social services, culture, human rights including the advancement of women’s rights, freedom of speech, and inclusion programs for the disadvantaged.
It has been an indispensable contribution to maintaining some sort of social infrastructure led by the civil sector despite the ongoing occupation of Palestine. In short; Sweden’s and the rest of the EU country’s support has been the lifeline of progressive, independent, and active Palestinian CSOs.
In December 2019 the Swedish Government and SIDA began incorporating a specific clause within the overall framework of new agreements with Palestinian non-governmental organizations.
15.1 The Cooperation Partner is responsible for ensuring that no GRANT funds shall be made available to, or for the benefit of, third parties designated by the European Union under its consolidated list of persons, groups and entities subject to financial sanctions (EU Sanctions List) as provided at www.sanctionsmap.eu.
Insistence on the inclusion of this clause and its imposition on Palestinian CSOs means not only incriminating the Palestinian people and their political parties but also obligating recipient organizations to police its own people through imposed screening procedures in accordance to EU restrictive measures. It also endangers and threatens CSOs’ relationships and credibility with the Palestinian community, and puts them at risk to lose their communities’ respect. Accepting such a condition is also against Palestinian law.
The EU’s counter-terrorism clause is designed from a global perspective but it has a discriminatory effect on Palestinian CSOs working hand in hand with the Palestinian people. While there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of terrorism, Imposing counter-terrorism guidelines on a people struggling for self-determination is unjust and indicates a clear marginalization of the legal situation of Palestine.
This process of politicizing Palestinian CSOs is endangering their position on one hand, and serving Israeli allegations and smear campaigns targeting Palestinian CSOs on the other hand. This development is part of an ongoing trend of politically conditioned funding which will severely dis-empower Palestinian CSOs, de-legitimize their credibility in their community, and shrink the scope of their space and programs.
We fear that the legacy of this development will be the obliteration of the Palestinian fabrics of national and political identity. The imposition of such a condition and its associated obligations will make the work of civil society organizations in Palestine impossible.
We respectfully urge the Swedish Government and SIDA to reconsider the incorporation of Article #15 in all funding agreements with Palestinian CSOs and urge a reevaluation of Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly essential, effective, and transparent programs, projects, and services provided to the Palestinian people. Rather than eliminate the fundamental right of Palestinian people to freedom and self-determination, we encourage SWEDEN to continue to strengthen and empower Palestinian civil society and people towards freedom, dignity, and justice.
We, respectfully urge Swedish Parliamentarians, politicians, law-makers, civil society organizations, and citizens of Sweden to act swiftly and positively to influence the Government’s decision to remove unjust funding conditions on Palestinian NGOs by signing this