Open Letters 29 March 2020
Dear civil society donors and supporters,
As the global response to COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, Palestinian civil society organizations are taking proactive measures to protect Palestinians health and well-being, especially those in the most vulnerable communities including in areas of the Gaza Strip, West Bank including those in “Area C” “H2” and East Jerusalem. We can’t do this without also protecting our staff especially our Health workers across the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem.
This includes necessary and quick shifts in strategy, reprioritsation, and fast adjustments in programming and outreach. Donors and supporters taking action in these difficult times make all the difference in saving lives.
At this very difficult time, Palestinian civil society organizations is under visible and immense financial pressure. Projects have been postponed, deliverables delayed and energies diverted to making alternative plans. Major events have been cancelled at significant financial loss. Funds have been (rightly) redirected from planned activities to COVID-19 responses. Reserves – when they exist – are limited and will soon be depleted.
Responding to these extraordinary challenges requires flexibility in how we use our grants. We are strengthened and inspired by messages from donors and supporters who have been quick to reinforce their sustained support and commitment to enabling maximum flexibility for the work of their partners. Still we need more donors and supporters to do the same and mobilize all their efforts and resources towards assisting Palestinian CSOs to meet the needs of Palestinian communities living under occupation and continued hardships. It is an important sign of trust and recognition of the crucial role of civil society and civic action in our societies, now more than ever.
We call on all donors and intermediaries providing essential support for civil society to adopt similar approaches by offering as much flexibility, certainty, and stability towards grantees and partners as soon as possible.
Here are six specific ways this can be done:
- Listen to grantee partners and together explore how you can best help them face the crisis, trusting they know best what is needed in their own country.
- Encourage the re-design and re-scheduling of planned activities and deliverables and provide clear guidance on how to seek approval for these changes.
- Support new and creative ways of creating a culture of solidarity and interaction while adhering to the physical distancing and other precautionary measures.
- Offer greater flexibility by reconsidering payment installments based on actual needs, converting existing project grants into unrestricted funds, or adding extra funds to help build-up reserves or cover unexpected costs.
- Simplify reporting and application procedures and timeframes so that civil society groups can better focus their time, energy and resources in supporting the most vulnerable rather than on meeting heavy reporting and due diligence requirements.
- Increase advocacy efforts to ensure that Palestinian Civil Society workers are protected especially including volunteers that are front line defenders in this state of emergency.
The Palestinian Non Governmental Organizations Network will continue to advocate for Palestinian rights and push back against civic space, including Israeli measures that disable civil society to mobilize with and for the vulnerable groups throughout the oPt. In these critical times, we must support civic space and its resourceful actors especially the Health workers and Human rights defenders, but expanding relevance and resilience, not reducing it. Now is the time to take action and hold Israel as the occupying power accountable and to never allow actors to further violate international law nor restrict the civic space.
Imagine what could happen if civil society groups and movements all suddenly stop or scale back their efforts to move us towards a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. Now imagine a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens collectively engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity – including the current pandemic. We must do whatever it takes to keep civil society alive, vibrant and resilient.
The way we will deal with this pandemic will have profound and lasting implications on how we build the future of our world.
This crisis can be successfully dealt with through a global culture of solidarity and civic action, one underpinned by intense cooperation, trust and burden sharing. And your role, as donors and supporters of civil society, is fundamental to this outcome