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Press Release: Monday, 5 February 2024

4 Feb 2024

West disproportionately cut aid to Palestine for a decade before the current war, new analysis shows

Western aid donors disproportionately cut their aid to Palestine in the decade before the current war, while increasing these flows globally, according to new data analysis from the Institute for Journalism and Social Change (IJSC).

Most significantly, the US cut the annual amount of bilateral aid it spent on development and humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by more than 90% between 2013 and 2022. By then, it was spending around $55 on military assistance to Israel for every $1 it gave in bilateral aid to Palestine. 

In total, sixteen countries reported spending less bilateral aid on development and humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2022 than they had in 2013, according to analysis of the latest data published at the end of December 2023 by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

They also include the UK, which cut its annual bilateral aid to Palestine by 70% between 2013-2022, as well as Canada and several Scandinavian countries. 

Meanwhile, what has been funded with decreasing aid flows includes projects at dozens of hospitals, schools and other essential facilities that have now been damaged or destroyed and must be rebuilt (in some cases again).

These findings are included in the IJSC’s report International Aid to Palestine: Disproportionate Cuts, Overwhelming Damage, published on 5 February 2024.

Other key findings include:

  • Palestine is the only aid recipient in the Middle East which has seen these annual flows decrease since 2012. Those for Syria and Yemen both increased by more than 200%. Those for Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq also rose. 

  • Some sectors have been particularly underfunded, such as women’s rights organisations (which received just 0.4% of the total aid spent on Palestine over the decade), as well as reproductive health and family planning. 

  • Aid to Palestine was always small, though it has gotten even smaller. At its peak, in 2016, the West Bank and Gaza still received only 1.4% of total global aid spending (by 2022 that share was down to just 0.8%).

  • Spending in the West Bank and Gaza by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), whose budget is contributed by donor governments led by the US, also fell after 2017 (and in 2022 it was 15% less than what was spent that year)

Commenting on the report’s findings: 

Sandie Hanna, a Palestinian feminist activist states: “The spectrum of international response to genocides in Palestine has taught us, Palestinians, that “crises” are manufactured as part of a deliberate policy or the normal functioning of the type of capitalism we have today and are structurally connected with the rise of neoliberal free market policies. We have come to conclude that the recurrence of war and humanitarian aid, hand in hand, in a supremacist framework that is missing accountability only normalizes wars and encourages crisis capitalism and imperial expansion. The current aid mechanism in Gaza is barely aimed at “helping” people navigate the crisis as if its role is to make genocide and torture “tolerable” in many senses for the population. The humanitarian aid industrial complex is “feeding” people during genocide, while ignoring the imperative ethical and moral obligation to achieve a political will and the ultimate goal of abolishing wars and man-made crises.  The complex is patriarchal and colonial, condescending to Palestinians throughout its “intervention”, ignoring that the resources it hoards are the accumulation of hundreds of years of slavery, extraction, and exploitation.”

Niamh Ni Bhriain, War and Pacification Coordinator, Transnational Institute states: "This report is timely coming in the wake of the various western powers announcing the withdrawal of funding for UNRWA, one of the only lifelines Palestinians have right now. This research shows how this recent cut to financial support fits within a broader pattern of defunding development aid to Palestine over the previous decade, while continuing to bankroll and provide political cover for Israel’s military occupation and genocidal war. The priorities of Western states are clear – protect Israel and western colonialist interests at all costs, even if that means complicity in a genocide against the Palestinian people." 

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, states: "These new startling figures show that Western governments are not only complicit in the war crimes being carried out in Gaza by cutting funding to UNRWA last week, they also bear responsibility for how we got to the awful situation in the first place. Through deep, politically motivated cuts to aid, they have exacerbated poverty and reduced people to desperation. They should hang their heads in shame." 

Diana Duarte, Interim Senior Director of the global feminist organisation MADRE states: “This report reveals the US decision to defund UNRWA as more than a drastic escalation of a humanitarian cataclysm for people in Gaza. It’s also the latest action in years of the US stripping away resources that Palestinian people require for development and human needs, with vital women’s rights organizations particularly deprived. All this, while investing billions in military aid and arms sales to Israel. The US has set an agenda that other Western governments have followed, and the devastation we see today is a consequence.”

Notes to editors:

  • The Institute for Journalism and Social Change (IJSC) is a new non-profit initiative bringing together current and future journalists, researchers and activists in service of journalism’s core social purpose: to support democracy. The IJSC’s first major publication, released April 2023, revealed how millions of dollars in international aid went to projects involving anti-LGBTQI groups in Uganda, and led to swift changes in the funding practices of some of the donors implicated. See that report or coverage of it in The Guardian and Vice

  • For this report, the IJSC analysed international aid to Palestine using new data uploaded to the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) at the end of December 2023, covering spending up to the end of 2022. This data treats ‘West Bank and Gaza Strip’ as a single aid ‘recipient’. In addition, aid data was combined with other sources of information: in particular, figures on US military assistance to Israel (from the Congressional Research Service), and news reports naming damaged hospitals and other sites in Gaza, which were cross-referenced with International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) records which can be more detailed and contain more text than the OECD data.

Each aid donor that reported decreasing aid flows to Palestine has been contacted by the IJSC for their responses. These are being compiled and published in a separate document on the IJSC’s website.

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