The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is a worldwide EU programme that is applied to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) that aims to enhance prosperity, stability and good governance in the countries neighbouring the EU through a deeper political relationship. The EU’s actions through the EIDHR are highly visible, as it is designed to help civil society become an effective force for political reform and defence of human rights. Building on its key strength — the ability to operate without the need for host government consent — the EIDHR is able to focus on sensitive political issues and innovative approaches through direct cooperation with local civil society organisations (CSOs), which often need to preserve independence from public authorities, providing for greater flexibility and increased capacity to respond to changing circumstances.
The global objective of this review is to provide the EU and the wider public with an overall independent assessment of the EU support to civil society in Palestine under the EIDHR-CBSS programme during 2011-2015 in order to identify key lessons and recommendations for programming, management and delivery of future support through this thematic programme.
The specific objectives of this review were to provide an overall, comprehensive and independent assessment of the past and current implementation of the EIDHR-CBSS Programme and identify key lessons and recommendations for programming, management and delivery of future support through this thematic programme.
The main challenge for this overall review was the great variety of projects funded under this programme and the difficult political context in which these projects were implemented.
EIDHR-CBSS was applied during the period 2011-2015 in an environment of increasing violations of the fundamental rights of Palestinians and a political impasse regarding the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian internal political division between Fatah and Hamas. The most significant violations referred to infringements of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the United Nations (UN) Conventions on human rights, especially on the prohibition of torture, arbitrary detention, legal defence, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of expression, assembly and association and fundamental economic rights such as the right to water and the right to work.
For this review, the evaluation team applied the standard EU Evaluation Methodology taking into account the contextual human rights situation in Palestine and the internal capacity of the implementing CSOs by aiming to assess the relevance, outcomes and impact of the EIDHR-CBSS projects. Various data gathering methods were employed. First, a desk review of the main policy documents related to the programme and its implementation through the 28 projects funded during 2011-2015. Then, a field visit to a sample of 13 projects, selected by geographic and thematic criteria, which included interviews with the implementing partners and target groups of the projects, and other relevant key partners and stakeholders in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Key partners and stakeholders included the relevant UN institutions working on human rights in Palestine, a sample of the EU Member States (EU MS) and other international donors funding programmes for human rights CSO projects, and the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). Once the field phase was finalised, three restitution workshops with the implementing CSOs and the EU MS were held to discuss the preliminary conclusions and recommendations.
The general conclusions of this review are the following:
- As a general assessment, the EIDHR-CBSS 2011-2015 responded to the main concerns and recommendations stated by the main policy documents on EU support to local civil society taking into account the particularities of those CSOs working on human rights. The programme in Palestine fully reflected the worldwide EIDHR strategy as adapted to the local priorities on human rights. The Calls for Proposals (CfPs) showed an increasing strategic concern in: the most fundamental rights of Palestinians being at risk; the prioritisation of East Jerusalem and area C as locations, and of local CSOs as main applicants; the increase in grants and in the duration of projects to promote more impact and sustainable interventions; and progressive importance of platforms and networks to strengthen local civil society and promote specialisation. The EU´s decision to contract a consulting company to provide regular capacity building activities for human rights CSOs was a very positive move to support more efficient implementation of the programme.
- The EIDHR-CBSS projects were all relevant as regards the programme priorities. Nevertheless, not all the projects had the same level of importance. Of significant relevance were those actions related to fundamental rights such as the prevention of torture, legal defence of detainees, the right to water, Housing-Land-Property (HLP) rights, the right to association, freedom of expression and assembly and the protection of human rights defenders, especially when the victims belong to vulnerable groups. Others might have been funded by other EU instruments as their violation is not politically motivated. However, more specific groups (Bedouins) or locations (Seam zone, Hebron) were not specifically included, but those target groups and areas are covered by other programmes including Area C Programme and Civil Society Organization-Local Authority (CSO-LA) Programme. CSOs remain relevant service providers because of the special situation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the particularity of Human Rights interventions.
- Most projects followed the classic design for interventions in the promotion of human rights: a combination of psycho-social protection, legal advocacy and public awareness. However, a general weakness in many projects was the lack of a sufficient legal side to have more effective interventions and poor human rights indicators to monitor the projects´ outcomes. Also, it was noted that a human rights approach to daily problems is still emerging, related to the Israeli occupation and the actions of the Palestinian authorities, and based on binding International Law. Nevertheless, the collaboration with Israeli human rights CSOs was very relevant to deal with certain legal challenges of the Israeli occupation. Regarding efficiency, most of them were cost-effective in terms of financial, contractual, administrative and operational management. Good tools were found such as partnerships and Memoranda of Understandings(MoUs) between partners. There was adequate adaptation to the 2014 Israeli military attack on Gaza. However, issues of concern are: poor understanding of EC procedures, which shows the local CSOs´ need for internal capacity-building on managerial skills; some over-spending in international travel and external evaluations; and the importance of the English language challenge for local CSOs. Overlapping of programme projects was not an issue.
- Effectiveness was achieved in general. Project activities were achieved as planned covering all oPt geographical areas. The action timeframes were in general an advantage for the outcomes. There was transfer of technical capacity between project partners in several projects. However, significant changes in local communities’ perception of certain human rights issues were not always fully achieved (right to life, women´s rights). Internal monitoring and evaluation of the projects needs further improvement. The role of Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions, although crucial to several projects, appeared to be weak because of insufficient institutional capacity. The rigidness of the EU financial procedures and the difficulty in amending project activities when there were significant changes in circumstances may have resulted in some level of ineffectiveness.
- The impact of EIDHR-CBSS is highly valued because of the significance of the main features: its funding capacity and its active intervention in the most sensitive issues related to the fundamental rights of Palestinians, although its multiplier effects are relative due to the political impasse and the ongoing conflict. Nevertheless, significant impact exists through collective resilience, new PA legislation, empowerment of communities on collective HR, learning legal remedies to stop/delay forced displacement, better protection of vulnerable groups and general good impact related to the perception of human rights not as a charity issue. However, some concerns remain: legal remedies are slow, social media for raising awareness are still poor and the use of platforms and networks to spread impact is not yet developed.
- Among local CSOs, it is difficult to fulfil their mandates without international funding. Some attempt to find alternative sustainability methods such as seeking core funds, and advocating and networking with international CSOs and platforms. In any case, there is a general need for proper strategies to generate sustainability through diversifying donors. It should be highlighted that the Palestinian CSO context is characterised by high competition and relatively poor specialisation. The co-partner INGOs should play an active role in building CSO capacity on EU regulations.
- There is no formal and permanent EUREP-EU MS coordination system at the operational level to increase impact as regard HR projects, but there is a strategic plan for supporting CSOs and a non-formal EU Civil Society Working Group which also tackles human rights issues. The coordination of International donors by OCHA on humanitarian assistance is not enough as it is not based on a common strategy for intervention. Nonetheless, the added value of the programme is highly appreciated as it addresses critical human rights issues and violations against vulnerable citizens. However, at the beneficiaries’ level, the visibility was not clear to some beneficiaries in terms of recognising the role of the EU in funding human rights topics.
The main recommendations are:
For the future EIDHR-CBSS in Palestine, including the 2016-2017 CfPs:
- EIDHR-CBSS in Palestine should focus on the politically motivated violations of fundamental rights recognised by International Humanitarian Law and the United Nations Human Rights Conventions.
- The programme should continue to promote effective reporting to the UN human rights system on the implementation of all international human rights instruments in force in Palestine by all duty-bearers.
- In particular, thematic priorities of the programme in Palestine should be: the right to liberty, the right to a due process of law, the prohibition of torture, restrictions to the freedom of movement and residence of Palestinians, HLP rights and the right to water and sanitation.
- Vulnerable social groups(children, women, elderly) should be a priority of the programme when the victims of those human rights violations belong to such social groups. The Bedouin should also be included among these vulnerable social groups.
- The programme should continue considering a thematic priority the promotion of democracy by ensuring respect for the fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Palestine.
- Special locations, like area C, the “seam zone” and the restricted access area in Gaza, East Jerusalem and Hebron, should be priority locations of the programme, in coordination with other main international donors.
- EIDHR-CBSS CfPs should promote local multidisciplinary platforms/partnerships for the implementation of actions and should demand acknowledged operational expertise from CSOs in relation to the actions they would implement under the programme.
For the EU:
- The EU common strategy on priorities/results for human rights projects should be strengthened to be a more effective tool to generate efficiency and impact
- The role of EIDHR in Palestine should be promoted in public discussions and dialogues.
- The programme support measures for local CSOs should be enlarged, especially in relation to improving their knowledge of International Human Rights Law (IHL) and social media strategy.
- The EU should support capacity building activities for local CSOs between the different occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) to develop synergies and promote common views.
The main recommendations for the CSOs are:
- Local CSOs need to invest in increasing their capacities in legal expertise, English language, internal monitoring/evaluation systems, reporting skills on project implementation and social media development for awareness/advocacy.
- There should be more coherent relations and coordination between CSOs and the PA to enhance protection services.
- Palestinian CSOs should promote a human rights perspective of daily problems, based on the fundamental rights recognised by IHL and the UN Human Rights Conventions, in order to combat collective frustration.