On October 12, 2014, a bunch of donors met in Cairo with the Palestinian Authority to discuss and pledge support for Gaza. I can’t find any official statement press release from the conference, so it’s hard to know exactly who came and pledged, but media coverage after the event suggested that Qatar pledged $1 billion, while Kuwait and the UAE pledged $200 million each, as did Turkey, and the United States pledged 212 million dollars. One source reported that the European Union promised 450 million euros while another said EU member states will contribute $570 million including pledges of $63 million from Germany $13m from Norway (or $14.5m from Norway, according to a different source). I guess that the EU promise of 450 million Euros is the same as the promise of the EU member states for $570 million, but I can’t be sure. Also, it was reported that Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million, France $38 million, Algeria $25 million, Italy $22.7 million, and Japan $200 million, while the UK figure came in at a shockingly low $32 million.
I’m not good in math, so I use a calculator to add up these figures and I don’t get anywhere near the $5.4 billion that all media consistently reported as the amount pledged at that conference. So where can I find out who else pledged and how much? Or is money already missing?
I look at OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service and pull a report for the occupied Palestinian territories (dated November 18, 2014) and there is no $1 billion from Qatar either in the commitments or pledges. Maybe that’s because Qatar isn’t transparent? So I decided to look for a donor with a high transparency rating, like the UK. I go back to the FTS and yes, there are paid contributions that could approximate the pledged amount, but there’s no way to tell if those are the same funds because there’s no date of the payment on that report. Grumble, grumble. Or maybe that’s because OCHA tracks only humanitarian funding and these pledges are considered “development” funding? “Aha!” I say to myself. “I should be able to find that info in the International Aid Transparency Index.” I go to the development portal, filter by UK, scroll to Palestine, and, yes! There is 130,856,816 spent and another 171,802,469 budgeted. But how can I find the $32m pledged at the Cairo donor’s conference?
Surely, with all the hulabaloo about aid data transparency, I must be doing something wrong.
Moreover, there’s the question about what the money will be spent on. The PA’s plan, which was submitted to donors as the basis of their request, listed $4 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza; $4.5 billion to support the PA budget from 2015-17; and $7 billion to finance the rebuilding and operation of Gaza’s airport and seaport, building a large water desalination plant and taking advantage of gas fields in Gaza’s sea, among other projects. But if “only” $5.4 billion was pledged against the $16.5 billion requested, then some things will get funded and others won’t. Where is that listed and explained?
The Palestinian Authority did put out a clarification. They said that some of the pledges were re-pledges of earlier commitments and that some of the funding will go to Gaza and some of the funding to the West Bank will also go to Gaza. But shockingly, they too seemed to be piecing data together from other data sources to calculate what money is expected.
Although I never passed eighth grade math, there is one thing I can be absolutely sure of. The aid data system – even the initiatives designed to make aid transparent – make it impossible for anyone to hold anyone accountable for anything.
If any of you “out there” think that I’m wrong and that you can figure out how much money the 1.8 million devastated Palestinians in Gaza should expect to receive, do let me know. This is not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking.
Nora Lester Murad, PhD, writes fiction and commentary from her home in Jerusalem, Palestine. She has published in Aljazeera, The Guardian, OpenDemocracy, Alliance Magazine, Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Arabic Literature in English, This Week in Palestine, and more. Her blog, “The View From My Window in Palestine” addresses issues of aid, development and daily life under military occupation. She co-founded the Dalia Association, Palestine’s first community foundation, and speaks frequently on the topics of philanthropy and international development. Nora is also a volunteer with Aid Watch Palestine. She can be reached at @NoraInPalestine or email@example.com.