Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have a long history of providing social services. In sectors such as early childhood education, specialized health care, and agriculture, they are the sole providers of services and are especially effective at reaching the poor and marginalized. Prior to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, most donor funding to the West Bank and Gaza was channeled through NGOs. In the 1990s, following the OsloAccords, donor assistance to NGOs contracted precipitously, leading to a real hardship among the poor and disadvantaged in areas where only NGOs were service providers.
Bank Support to Palestinian NGOs
To address this concern, in 1997 the Bank launched the Palestinian NGO Project (PNGO), an innovative project which provided grants to NGOs providing social services. Moreover, the signatory of the Legal Agreement and the recipient of the Bank’s funds was itself an NGO, the Welfare Association, the first such arrangement of its kind for the Bank. The first PNGO project far exceeded its objectives, reaching more than 213,000 beneficiaries, compared to the projected 50,000. Beneficiaries reported high rates of satisfaction with the quality of services received. Building on the lessons learned of this first experience, Palestinian NGOII was launched in 2001. The total amount of the Bank’s funding for these two projects was $US18 million but they successfully leveraged an additional $US30 million from other donors because of the transparent systems for grant-making that were established.
Under Palestinian NGOIII, launched in 2007, the Bank supported the establishment of the Palestinian NGO Development Center (NDC), born out of the project management unit responsible for managing previously PNGO and PNGOII. NDC’s mandate is to promote the development of a responsive and accountable Palestinian civil society through both technical assistance and mobilizing resources for grant making to Palestinian NGOs so that they continue to provide needed services for the poor and most marginalized. Bank support under PNGOIII continued to stress the importance of service delivery to Palestinian communities through NGOs, while focusing only on those services where there is a gap or which complement the role of line ministries so as not to duplicate services. It also contributed towards institutional development of the NGO sector. By focusing on issues such as good governance, accountability, and transparency, the project supported the sector in being responsive to the needs of Palestinians, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. Building the capacity of Palestinian NGOs will provide the basis for long-term sustainability of these services. It also contributes to equity in access to social services for the poor and marginalized.
Since the first project was launched in 1997, the PA has made concerted efforts to build a Palestinian state. A dynamic civil society signals a healthy state. Building on this long experience, the Bank, jointly with the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), has continued its engagement in the sector through the soon to be launched Palestinian NGOIV Project. Contributing towards the PA’s state building efforts, the project establishes mechanisms that promote deepening the PA's partnership with NGOs, especially in the area of some types of service delivery and enhanced coordination to avoid duplication. In addition to service delivery, the proposed operation will enable NGOs to develop good governance systems and become more accountable and transparent. It will also map current services provided by NGOs with a view of clarifying the service delivery roles between NGOs and the PA in order to promote strong partnerships.
The long engagement of the Bank in the NGO sector through the series of NGO projects has meant that despite the intensely volatile climate the project has continued to innovate and promote institutional development of the sector. Under conflict conditions, the provision of social services through NGOs has proven to be an effective means of addressing the needs of communities, especially the poor and vulnerable while enhancing institutional capacity.
Achievements of the PNGO Projects
Developing the NGO Code of Conduct. Enabling NGOs to improve their governance, accountability, and transparency mechanisms under PNGOIII. The code describes ethical guidelines and management standards for NGOs.
Empower Households and Communities for Self-Reliance. Sub-grants supporting innovative income generating activities for the poorest households, especially in the agriculture sector. Tree planting is one of the few ways available to protect Palestinian lands from confiscation.
Developing Human Capital. Programs supporting men, women, and youth in technology training, job-skills development, adult literacy, conservation education, etc.
Social Protection. Strengthening the quality of education for children with special needs, psychosocial counseling, and mental health services.
Investments in Community Assets. Construction of assets for villages and urban communities, including facilities for computer laboratories, health clinics, and community centers. Facilitating public-private-local government partnerships in developing plans to meet infrastructure deficits.
Strengthening the Legal Environment for NGO operations. The NGO law was revised under the PNGO project in close collaboration with the PA.
Safety Net for Employees of Palestinian NGOs. Under PNGOII, a group health insurance plan for all NGO employees was put in place. Previously, staff of NGOs had no access to health insurance.
Improving Specialized Services. Under PNGOIII, neurosurgery services were established at Al-Makased Hospital in Jerusalem and St. John’s in Nablus. This has eliminated the need for referrals abroad (or to Israel) bringing down the healthcare costs and ensuring better patient care. This service is also now being extended to Gaza through support to Al-Wafa hospital.