Postdoctoral Fellowship for Jeremy Wildeman - Aid Effectiveness in the Occupied Patestinian Territories

Project: Research council

Project Details


Since 1993 international donors have invested more than $30 billion as aid meant to develop the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), in order to support the Peace Process laid out in the 1993 Oslo Accord. The framework for this aid model was developed in 1993 by the World Bank in a policy document "An Investment in Peace"4 and the subsequent 1994 Paris Protocol.5 The Bank has also played a lead role since that time producing reports and policy recommendations for the top donors on how OPT aid should be given, acting as the intellectual leader for an aid process dominated politically by the United States and funded by the EU as the top donor.6 In the process of spending that aid, those Western donors have radically redesigned the Palestinian government and economy in their image built on neoliberal policy models, excluding local ownership over the aid process. That aid, one of the biggest and most intrusive cases in history, has been a failure.7 Since 1993 the economy of the OPT has significantly de-developed and is now dependent on aid to cover basic needs. Meanwhile, the general welfare of the people in the OPT has become markedly worse due to the combination of economic decline and violence, where repeated outbursts of conflict with Israel have resulted in thousands of deaths, tens-of-thousands of serious injuries, large scale incarcerations and the trampling of basic human rights guaranteed under international law.8 In this time the West Bank has been progressively absorbed into Israel through a rapid programme of settlement building, especially of East Jerusalem. Gaza's conditions are even much worse, bottled up in a stringent economic blockade since 2006 imposed by Israel, with support from Egypt and international donors, in order to destabilise and overthrow the local government.9 In that time three major bombardments have decimated Gaza's infrastructure, where the blockade and donor policy makes reconstruction and recovery impossible. Conditions are so bad that the UN has predicted Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020.10 In my research I show how major donors have deliberately ignored the actual context of Israel's occupation policies and real conditions in the OPT, while excluding Palestinians from ownership of the aid process. Further, those donors deliberately ignore key principles for aid effectiveness agreed to by OECD countries, like the Paris Declaration (2005) and Accra Agreement (2008), which emphasise local ownership over the aid process, and the OECD Do No Harm principle, which emphasises the need for aid to be contextually appropriate in conflicted or fragile states. These flaws are reinforced by Western donors' identification with Israel as a Western, capitalist democracy, and the close alliance of many with Israel. As a result, they often favour (some exclusively) Israel's interpretation of political events. Israel has been able to capitalise on those sympathies and shape OPT aid to meet its needs to sustain the occupation, at a profit. A recent estimate, for instance, is that up to 72% of the value of aid goes on to Israel, an OECD country and the occupying power.11 In this way donors feed and inflame the underlying reasons for conflict. Meanwhile, donors have operated under an assumption that Israel, as a Western democracy, is by nature inclined toward peace, and that through exposure to Israel the Palestinians could be remade to want it too. Such biased beliefs have been key to donors violating Do No Harm by giving contextually inappropriate aid that has actually undermined Palestinian state building. By not understanding the history and power dynamics in the OPT, donor actions have weakened the incentives for powerful elites to 'buy in' to peace building and increased their incentives to 'opt out'. My project identifies the worst donor policies with the aim of changing how aid is given in order to promote real economic development, peace building and the general welfare of Palestinians.
Effective start/end date1/02/1731/01/18


  • Economic and Social Research Council