Dutch Government Cuts Funding for Cordaid, NGO Involved in Palestine

29.12.10 – 21:13

The Hague – PNN – The Dutch Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Catholic Organization for Development Cooperation, or Cordaid, became the latest victim of both the European trend toward austerity and a rightward leaning Dutch government when it saw its government funding cut by 42% over the last two months.

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Cordaid is a development aid NGO based in The Netherlands (PNN Archive).

The latest cut, of 12%, was enacted on December 28, adding on to the 30% cut passed by the Dutch parliament on November 30. Cordaid, which receives government money and devotes much of its efforts to reducing structural poverty by funding development projects in places such as Palestine, was just one of many groups affected by the slashing of Dutch international aid caused by the economic downturn. As a result of the cuts, the number of Dutch “partner countries” will be halved from 33 to 16.

Cordaid organizers in Palestine, however, believe the new right-wing government of the Netherlands also targeted Cordaid specifically for its Palestinian connections.

“Of course, it is in a way political because in Holland we have to deal with this new government,” said Trees Kosterman, who helps coordinate Cordaid’s spending on Palestinian projects. “Loyalty and solidarity with the Third World is not on their agenda anymore. Holland was always one of the countries where that was very high on the agenda.”

The foreign policy agenda of the new Dutch government depends upon its makeup—and right now, the kingmaker is the Freedom Party of right-wing extremist Geert Wilders, who must be consulted on most decisions cast by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats. Wilders is fervently anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant, having proposed a headscarf tax and a ban on immigration from Muslim countries.

“Wilders promotes ‘no money into the Third World,’” said Kosterman, “and especially no money into Muslim countries. He doesn’t believe in it.”

According to Kosterman, Wilders’ ideal funding boycott extends to countries such as Yemen and Pakistan as well, where international aid projects often cut recruitment numbers for extremist groups. Wilders himself is perfectly clear on his position on Palestine—in the leadup to the Dutch general elections in February 2010, he proposed that Jordan rename itself Palestine to provide “an alternate homeland” for Palestinians.

The Dutch development aid cuts appear to have more to do with the European austerity wave than Wilders’ personal vendettas.  The Coalition Agreement signed by the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats (the Freedom Party did not sign, but provides a key deadlock-breaking vote in sessions of parliament) suggests that in light of economic constraints, the foreign policy of the Netherlands merely become more “integrated” and “better coordinated.”

The Agreement does state, however, “The Netherlands wishes to invest more in its relationship to Israel.”

“What I’m afraid of,” said Kosterman, “is that they will tell us who to fund and not to fund and what to fund, and then the Palestinian organizations are completely wiped off the map.”

After the 42% cut, Kosterman confessed she has “no idea” what’s next for Cordaid. She said one-third of the organization’s 400 workers will have to be fired, but the organization will not shut down.

“I hope that within a couple of months, the government will fall and they will go into elections again,” she said.


Related news items:

PNN – Palestine News Network – Dutch Government Cuts Funding for Cordaid, NGO Involved in Palestine.

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