NGOs and state in Palestine: negotiating boundaries

NGOs and state in Palestine: negotiating boundaries

NGOs and the state: confrontations in situations of conflict resolution in Palestine

A publication of a report by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator (UNSCO) in the Occupied Territories in May 1999, triggered a new confrontation between the PNA government, and Palestinian NGOs . The report purported to assess "progress in the rule of law development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip" a sizeable amount of the assistance went, directly or indirectly, to PNA bodies (including the PLC) . This fact was deliberately ignored in the campaign against the NGOs. It also ignored the rationale given by the report for the donors' interest in developing the Palestinian legal system. This is articulated as "overcoming the decades of institutional neglect arising from Israeli occupation; rendering some consistency to outdated and often conflicting laws; providing comprehensive and standardised training (including human rights training) to law enforcement officials, legislative staff, members of the judiciary, prosecutors, and others in the legal profession; and creating a physical infrastructure for the legal system".

Three aspects are of special interest in understanding the dynamics of the confrontation:

  • the time dynamics of the confrontation
  • the ethnography of actors directly involved in the confrontation and their various stances
  • the topography of the outcome of the confrontation that surfaced during the summer of 1999

The paper concludes by highlighting a number of observations regarding the process as revealed in this confrontation:

  • the PLC accepted the amendment to NGO law demanded by the president
  • the campaign did have some impact on the sphere of public opinion. It has tarnished, to some extent, the image of NGOs, but not to a very significant extent
  • the role of the press and mass media is very relevant here, as the main newspapers were divided in terms of their attitude to the issue
  • the confrontation was conducted with discourse that used the language of democracy. This points to the need to situate civil discourse in the context of power relations. Hence the "hegemony" of a democratic civil discourse is not necessarily reflect the actual workings of the political system
  • the confrontation suggests a need for most NGOs, to operate more effectively in their varied fields of activity
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