OPT: NGO's criticises foreign minister for withdrawing economic support

Report
from Norwegian People's Aid
Published on 10 Apr 2006
The Norwegian government's decision to stop budget support payments to the new Hamas government in Palestine is unfortunate, say Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Refugee Council and Norwegian People's Aid.
It is very important that Hamas acknowledges Israel's right to exist, renounces all use of terror and clearly signals will to dialogue and negotiations with the Israeli government. Hamas did however win a democratic election. It is difficult to see that Hamas in government position has acted in a way that should lead to the economic sanctions against the Palestinian government that these cuts in reality are. In our opinion the Norwegian position should be to support Hamas as the democratic elected government and not impose actions that lead to more instability.

Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Refugee Council and Norwegian People's Aid are critical to cutting the budget support for several reasons:

- The Palestinian Authority is responsible for school and health services in the Palestinian areas. When the aid stops, the government's ability to provide services will decrease with serious consequences for the already strongly affected population. Many people are dependent on payments from the government (pensions, unemployment payments etc.). The consequences of cuts in the budget support may be none or reduced payments for thousands of Palestinians. This will make poor people even poorer leading to widespread social suffering and instability.

- The cut in the budget support can lead the Hamas government to turn to politically more extreme sources of funding.

- Norway has a special role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Norway has, and should continue to have, a mediator role and facilitate communication between the parties. Norway has the chairman position in AHLC (The committee of donor countries to the Palestinians) and TIPH (The international observer force in Hebron). These roles make it necessary for Norway to always encourage dialogue and negotiations between the parties. We cannot see that the Norwegian government has shown that the cut in budget support will strengthen Norway's strategic position in these questions.

Norwegian People's Aid, Norwegian Church Aid and Norwegian Refugee Council ask the Norwegian government to reconsider the cut in budget support to the Palestinian authorities. The organisations also request a broader consequence analysis of such cut.