Since the end of the Cold War, the quest to spread democracy has become the rallying call of many Western donor agencies. Reflecting this new agenda, new program priorities prevailed that placed greater emphasis on civil society development, civic engagement and gender empowerment. Contrary to expectations, however, many of these programs have often adversely affected existing social movements. Most scholars attempting to explain these unintended outcomes have focused on the impact of NGO professionalization. Examining the Palestinian women’s movement, this article addresses the inadequacy of this explanation and focuses on the political dimension of this discussion by illustrating how Western donors’ lack of understanding of the Palestinian women’s movement and its “embeddedness” in the broader political context served to weaken and undermine this movement. The influx of Western donor assistance in the post-Madrid, post-Oslo era, along with the greater emphasis on Western promoted gender empowerment, undermined the cohesiveness of the women’s movement by exacerbating existing political polarization (that went beyond Islamist and secular divisions) and disempowering many grassroots activists. Effectively, many of these activists were transformed from active political participants involved in their organizations to the recipients of skills and services in need of awareness raising. Findings in this article also speak to current regional developments, especially in light of the current Arab uprisings and the promise of greater Western involvement to empower women in the region.
Since 1993 the international community has invested more than $24 billion in ‘peace and development’ in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). That aid was meant originally to support the Oslo Peace Process through economic development. However, neither peace nor development has been realized, and both seem increasingly unlikely. While examining donor operations, priorities and the ‘aid-for-peace’ agenda, this article investigates whether patterns in oPt donor aid have changed following the Arab uprisings of 2011. Building on 28 original interviews with Palestine aid actors, it was found that patterns remain unchanged and that donors remain transfixed on a long failed ‘Investment in Peace’ framework that was designed for economic development by the World Bank back in 1993. By comparing these research findings with the literature on aid to Palestine, this article argues that donors are not ready to alter a framework dominated by policy instrumentalists who emphasize pre-determined normative values over actual results, quietly trading financial inducements to Palestinians to forgo political rights within a ‘peace dividends’ model. Meanwhile, critics of the existing aid framework remain largely ignored and have little influence on aid policy, in spite of two decades of instrumentalist failure to produce peace or economic growth using the existing model.