The Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA) is the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ primary agency for global development and cooperation. Its operating budget in 2005 was approximately $1.8 billion, or 63 percent of Sweden’s total contribution to anti-poverty initiatives around the world. SIDA allocates considerable resources to the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, where in 2004 the Agency invested some $34 million. Of that total, $9.1 million went toward “human rights and democratization” programs; $19 million toward the social sectors; and $5.5 million toward infrastructure, commerce and urban development.
According to SIDA, “Palestinian society is in a deep crisis, and the conflict is leaving deep scars: human rights are being violated every day, unemployment is rife and the destruction of the infrastructure continues.” These woes, says SIDA, are entirely attributable to Israeli policies: “The Israeli blockades and the prolonged curfews have severely restricted people’s chances of earning a living and their access to schools and hospitals. The wall, or ‘separation barrier,’ that Israel has built on the West Bank prevents Palestinians from moving freely, even within and between the Palestinian controlled areas on the West Bank and in Gaza. Israel’s military air and ground operations have had a devastating effect on people’s physical and mental health as well as on crops, buildings and roads in the Palestinian areas.”
SIDA’s stated objective is to ease the suffering caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict through food aid, job creation, home repairs, and health-sector expenditures for Palestinian beneficiaries. However, the organization also channels significant funding to groups that are overtly political and promote anti-Israel agendas. Among these are Al-Haq, to which SIDA donated $58,734 in 2005, and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, which SIDA supports in conjunction with the Danish International Development Agency and the Ford Foundation.
In addition, SIDA provides funding for (a) the Palestinian Solidarity Association of Sweden, which supports the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees’ campaign to boycott Israeli goods and programs; (b) the Swedish group Diakonia, a self-described “Christian development organization” that supports highly politicized NGOs such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel; (c) the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unit, a political framework that strongly opposes Israel’s construction of the security barrier in the West Bank, and has argued against its legitimacy to the International Court of Justice at The Hague; and (d) the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen’s Rights (PICCR), an organization established by Yasser Arafat in 1993 “to follow up and ensure that the different Palestinian laws, by-laws and regulations, and the work of the various departments, agencies and institutions of the State of Palestine and the Palestine Liberation Organization meet the requirements for safeguarding human rights.” PICCR frequently employs human rights rhetoric to engage in one-sided criticism of Israeli actions. In its 2004 annual report, for example, it condemned Israel’s targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yasin and Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi, without mentioning their roles in organizing terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
This profile is adapted, with permission, from NGO Monitor.