Archive for the ‘Social Capital’ Category

Governance, Fragility, Peace Building and Civil Society – limitations 

The biggest limitation for this review is a lack of models which look comprehensively at the question of governance and civil society in the context of fragility and peace building, and also apply this to the Palestinian context. Current models, which are also used in Palestine, focus either on 

  • the definition, function and typology of civil society, their internal and external governance
  • the types of relationship between the state and civil society  
  • the role of the actors, civil society and the state, in a situation of fragility and in peace building

Very seldom is a governance perspective on both, civil society AND the state employed. Cangas for example has a more comprehensive approach and suggests an enhanced governance structure:

Cangas in his model focusses here on the shared ideal governance values of civil society and the state, which employ different approaches to ultimately achieve similar goals. Perhaps in the future a coherent model and analysis to define where programs make distinct contribution to a wider governance structure within fragility and conflict could be helpful. 

In full knowledge of these limitations, the paper will focus more on the role of Palestinian civil society within fragility and as an actor to promote good governance.
Status of peace building discourse in Palestinian civil society, non-violent resistance, relevancy of currently defined Peace Building Needs

The role of Palestinian civil society in the peace building process such as 

  • Peace education
  • People to people projects
  • Track two diplomacy and problem solving workshops

… especially together with Israeli civil society, are currently under harsh criticism by many civil society actors and activists up to the level of rejection. In many case peace building and conflict resolution are perceived by Civil Society as synonymous to “normalization”, a term coined to define common strategies, partnerships and projects with Israeli civil society, which in turn are seen as being exploited by the Israeli state and civil society to demonstrate that the situation is “normal” and that military occupation and an active policy of denial of national aspirations, citizenship and human rights does not exist. “Normalization” is seen as playing into the Israeli narrative that the status of the occupied Territories is merely “contested” and the Israeli regime a benign form of stewardship. Instead, most Palestinian activists and NGO-leaders believe that Israeli civil society should first influence their own government to give up occupation and grant national aspirations, rather than enter dialogue projects with Palestinian civil society. 

There appears a tiny window of opportunity with leftist Israeli NGO which vehemently oppose occupation such as Adalah, Coalition of Women for Peace, Physician for Human Rights, etc.. But although Palestinian NGO leaders are willing to work with these organizations, the communication of such cooperation to their constituencies is difficult and even dangerous to the reputation and thus legitimacy to individual Palestinian NGO. 

Peace building within Palestinian civil society thus focusses either on local non-violent conflict resolution or an non-violent resistance, such as international advocacy, demonstrations, challenging actively the permit regime in Area C by building without permits, calling of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction of all Israeli institutions or of settlements and their products. These avenues are seen as the only credible options by Palestinian civil society how to either deal with inner Palestinian conflicts (the use of mediation and conflict resolution) or on how peacefully oppose further colonization and occupation of land and denial of international human rights, ongoing violations of international law and cases of perceived war crimes.  

Alternative and dissenting discourse on how to achieve “Peace Building Needs”, that is of how to achieve a life within peace, safety, security and justice is seldom practiced within Palestinian civil society, which also excludes public discussions on one or two state solutions. In informal discussions the two state solution is seen as “dead”, more or less based on the assumption that the state of Israel has no interest in this kind of resolution. However in the opinion of Palestinian civil society, without the fulfillment of national aspirations, no peace can be accomplished in the long term. Palestinian civil society is more or less sidelined from this process and thus resorts to national and international advocacy, providing services where the PA does not fulfill its function, and entering into negotiation processes with the PA and international donors on developmental or humanitarian concerns and needs for marginalized groups and how best to address these.  

German development policy and thus development cooperation policy distances itself from the BDS movement due to Germany’s historical obligations and special relationship to Israel, and furthermore stands firmly by the policy of a two state solution and building the Palestinian institutions to be ready to fulfill that function.   

What resonates within Palestinian civil society, apart from seeking permanent justice and peace for its constituencies, is that it continuously DOES struggle for social justice for marginalized groups such as women, youth and people with disabilities and through service provision alleviates economic and social disparities. It DOES strive to overcome territorial fragmentation through shared social values and beliefs and actions and it IS in constant dialogue with the PA, which in turn increases its legitimacy. 

The Palestinian state project within the context of fragility and legitimacy

If the PA constitutes state is internationally contested. It does not hold full control over the territory which it has claims to, it cannot provide security for its citizens and its input legitimacy is eroding due to the absence of national elections and the ongoing political split between Fatah and Hamas. However the PA has proclaimed itself a state and Palestinian civil society has not opposed this proclamation, but generally supports actions taken within the UN, the ICJ and accession to and actions in multilateral institutions. One can safely say that Palestinian civil society as a whole, although critical of PA policy and the Oslo process in many cases, does not oppose the definition of the PA representing a state and thus also positions itself vis a vis the current Palestinian state, just as civil society does in other countries. This might seem at odds with the private opinion raised by many civil society representatives in the “end” of the two state solution, and probably can only be reconciled by the observation of a general sense of lack of alternatives, but also the fact that open opposition to the PA as a state would also undermine the legality of the NGO operating under the regulation of the PA. A hypothesis is that in the current conflict scenario international unilateral moves (International recognition as a state, BDS, cases to the ICJ) are seen as only options to secure statehood in the future, or at least oppose further colonization and occupation.  

According to the OECD there four distinct sources of legitimacy, especially relevant in the context of fragility:

  1. Input or process legitimacy, which is the mechanisms by which those who appropriate and use public power are held accountable
  2. Output or performance legitimacy: here mainly security as a basis for providing any other state service and as “raison d’etre”, but also social service (health, education), infrastructure and a framework to support economic activity. The state is ultimately responsible for the governance of these services and organizing the contributions of other actors (NGOs, international as agencies, etc). 
  3. Shared beliefs, such as traditions, religious beliefs, collective identity. 
  4. International legitimacy

As opposed to other states in situations of fragility and conflict, with suffer from legitimacy due to the states weak performance to deliver adequate output, especially security, the main weakness of the PA is that it cannot deliver on the promise of national liberation built on the institution building process and that this can be considered from a Palestinian perspective as the main source of erosion of legitimacy. Furthermore the PA has failed to bring international legitimacy through the recognition of the veto players of Israel and the US. Here is the main and most severe and sensitive critique of civil society of the PA, which also explains the PA more and more authoritarian crackdown on dissidents and journalists. Civil society has been careful to voice these opinions publicly, especially and also in the Gaza Strip. This criticism goes to the core of the legitimacy of the PA, challenged already due to the same reasons by Hamas, and can be seen as a “ticking time bomb” if these opinions further proliferate within younger, frustrated population groups which could resort to violence to challenge the regime of the occupation or that of the PA. The lack of international legitimacy is to be seen as the main source of fragility for the situation in Palestine and as the main threat to the state building process as a whole.  

Input or process legitimacy has been deficient since absence of national elections and continuation of political infighting. Palestinian civil society has on one hand called for national reconciliation, but has been more influential in the past when addressing and lobbying PLC-members for reform processes or educating potential PLC members but also voters. This influence now only takes place in policy dialogue either at the national or local level. In specific sectors this is mainly been up to the responsible line ministry to what degree and what form civil society has been included in planning, monitoring and evaluation of the state performance. Civil society has been part in planning commissions with varying degree of success. 

Shared beliefs and collective identity also has been continuously been shifting towards a more conservative and religious society, a purely secular state is no longer the option on the table as religiously motivated civil society and groups and also Hamas enjoy more and more credibility and popularity. 

Output legitimacy is constrained in those areas where the PA does not have reach, these are predominately Area C, East Jerusalem but also the Gaza Strip. In the Gaza Strip, due to a renewed humanitarian crisis, civil society at the moment focusses mainly on emergency response and humanitarian efforts, which are coordinated through the UN cluster system in which the PA is a part. However the reconstruction efforts where negotiated in the absence of civil society, and this as sidelined again the population and civil society as an important actor to rebuild Gaza. In Area C the situation on the ground is well documented, the PA has an Area C strategy and the PA and civil society does a mix of service provision how ever limited the effects might be to counter further displacement. The unchanged permit regime still prevents planning and the building much needed infrastructure, which would allow the Palestinian population within Area C to remain. Within East Jerusalem, the PA is not allowed to operate and Palestinian civil society remains the only Palestinian service provider in East Jerusalem. While the Ministry of Jerusalem support Palestinian civil society in East Jerusalem, very little is known on the actual deficiencies of social service provision in East Jerusalem and how best counter this in partnership with the PA.  

As mentioned before the PA cannot guarantee safety and security to many its citizens which are affected by violence through settlers and Israeli military, and also civil society cannot fulfill this function, although active in covering human rights abuses and following these through legal support. Although many services of the PA have been improved in the past years, this does little to alleviate political frustration, since this seems to do nothing to end occupation in any near future. Further exclusion of the population, especially visible now in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in which the population neither has voice nor influence, further compounds these frustrations. 
Current state of legitimacy of Palestinian civil society

The developments of civil society in the last twenty years has been marked by fundamental tensions. To build a pluralistic state of citizens, donors have heavily supported formally incorporated civil society, namely Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) especially in the development of its capacity. These mid-size to large NGO can now be seen as fairly professional in planning, resource development and service delivery. But this phase of professionalization is now exactly which now being seen as development of an “NGO-elite”, since well educated staff is necessary to meet donors high demands in management and accountability. This cannot be said for smaller, grassroots Community Based Organizations (CBO), which are constituted mainly by volunteers and work on an ad hoc project basis with very small funds, but which at the same time cannot access larger funds due to a lack of capacity or even registration. CBOs are therefore limited in their ability to fulfill donor requirements, especially in terms of transparency and accountability, and very dependent on NGO intermediaries.  

CSOs have been accused of corruption or mismanagement of funds or lack of internal good governance, and this has been countered by the development of a Palestinian “NGO Code of Conduct”. But in effect from a Palestinian perspective legitimacy of CSOs springs most often from the fact if they actively pursue a policy of national liberation or popular resistance, rather than well-managed projects or programs. The conundrum being the same as with the PA: Do these civil society institutions really serve the ultimate goal of achieving a Palestinian state? Or are they creating elites benefitting from ongoing occupation? The same question can also be addressed to international NGO and agencies and poses a real threat to the credibility of such agencies. 

Other actors also consider certain Palestinian CSOs illegitimate, but for other reasons. The Israeli state considers Palestinian Civil Society “illegitimate” or illegal, especially if the work within East Jerusalem or Israel on openly political issues such as ending occupation or define themselves as “Palestinian”, or if they are considered to take funding by, or have ties with “terrorist organizations”. The US lets grantees sign the “anti-terror” clauses, which again is viewed by some CSOs as conditional and thus illegal funding.   

The challenges are therefore multi-facetted: If development cooperation policy is continuing to focus on institution building, how can this been done without further eroding the legitimacy of the actors involved? How can one build democratic structures under occupation? And how can in such a complex context civil society be strengthened?

State-Civil Society relationships in Palestine within the context of fragility

Craissati (2005) has developed three models of state-civil society relations:

  1. ‘Integration’ – is based on liberal theory and stipulates that there is no competition between the state and civil society
  2. ‘Rejection’ – is drawn from the socialist democracy model and posits that the role of civil society is to attain political rights through class struggle and confrontation with the state.
  3. Third model – ‘Challenge’ – derives its principles from ’radical politics’ and suggests that civil society must retain its distinct identity in order to push the state for progressive change

The “Rejection” model can actually be observed already within Palestinian civil society vis a vis the Israeli state. It rejects completely occupation policies and the legitimacy of the occupation regime. Thus includes also the rejection of “normalization” and the call for BDS. In some cases CSOs even reject the legitimacy of the Israeli state as whole. Rejection of the legitimately of the PA, also leads to further conflict, be it by a political party like Hamas, or violence and imprisonment inflicted on Palestinian dissidents who question the PA.  

“Integration” insinuates a model of co-optation in which civil society supports state policies and executes mutually agreed on programs. In a sense integrations also implies budget integration in which the state supports commissions civil society for an array of services which is already being practiced by the Ministry of Social Affairs. On the other hand in such a “subsidiary” system, there is strong regulation which obligated the state to do so and civil society can challenge the state in court on funding decisions. While better public services are needed in many areas, the relationship between the PA and civil society is still far from the point where such integration would be possible. A broad social consensus and extensive legal reform would be necessary to accomplish this. 

The “Challenge” model and the push for progressive change appears to be the most promising venue, due a variety of reasons. In the absence of elections, there is no apparent legitimate opposition to current PA policies, which become more and more authoritarian. First and foremost new ideas how to end occupation, how to attain national liberation, how to govern can only be brought to the attention of duty bearers by civil groups and civil society. The collective bargaining process is not done in representation of voters based on party programs but at the time only in specific forums between the state and civil society. Specific attention should be given here to the ideas and interests of popular resistance movements, smaller CBO, but also civil society in East Jerusalem and Area C. Especially younger people should be given the chance to participate politically and be able to voice their opinion and ideas. Important is the visibility and effectiveness of such actions. 

Recommendations for supporting civil society in Palestine in situation of fragility 

To summarize: 

Development cooperation in Palestine faces a dilemma. Technical support, even where much needed, can be quickly turn into, or be interpreted as, support for an elite disinterested in the suffering of a population under occupation, thus enhancing tension and potential conflict. Fragility and the absence of a state is also a result of the absence of a two-state solution. Further altercations, future violence is to be expected. In a mid-term scenario, even without violence, the situation will deteriorate. Since the involved Palestinian actors (Government, civil society and private sector), appear all on the same page when it comes to the causes of fragility and more disagree on how to counter this, it appears that development should more focus on the improvement and maintenance of relationships within the set-up of relevant Palestinian governance actors, rather than the capacity building of a certain group of actors. 

Recommendations could therefore be: 

  • To focus on a rights based approach, as a means to an end to liberation from occupation and supporting national aspirations, to clearly make this visible in external and internal communication and to tie this to the program structure and proposed outcomes. 
  • To leverage development cooperation in its role  as a intermediary and facilitator between the state and civil society, between CBOs and NGOs, between Gaza and the Westbank and between national and international actors. For example to support mediation efforts of civil society between political factions, to support networks in their ability to engage with international actors and the PA across the geographic divisions.
  • To mainstream Do No Harm into Civil Society programmming, policies and objectives to avoid increasing tensions between the PA and civil society, but also between NGO and CBOs, between religious and secular actors, between the popular base and civil society. 
  • To empower socially motivated grassroots organizations in their popular and non-violent resistance strategies and rights-based initiatives. For example support to CBOs to address workers rights in settlements and coordination and legal support to challenge demolition orders, means and support for communication and international advocacy and connect and mediate between CBOs and NGOs. 
  • To support Palestinian civil society in its role as a policy dialogue partner with the PA to represent authentically interests of communities and especially young people. Which on one hand would mean better access to information for civil society but on the other also to bring continuous attention to decisions makers the grievances of marginalized population groups. To strengthen civil society as a policy actor.
  • To support civil society in its international advocacy efforts.
  • To continuously lobby for the inclusion of civil society and grassroots groups in donor forums and negotiations between donor governments and the PA.
  • To allow for and open space for discussions, deliberations on alternative political models and strategies on how to achieve statehood. 
  • To include a “Plan B” for a rapid deterioration, such another war on the Gaza Strip, and build the resilience of partners for such scenario. 


OECD (2010) “The State’s Legitimacy in Fragile Situations – unpacking complexity”

Craissati, Dina (2005) New Social Movements and Democracy in Palestine: A Model for the Politics of Civil Society in the Arab World. Edison, NJ: Transaction Publishers 

Cangas, Alisa Herrero (2004), The good governance agenda of civil society: Implications for ACP-EU cooperation, InBrief, European Centre for Development Policy Management, Accessed on 22.3.2014 http://www.ecdpm.org/Web_ECDPM/Web/Content/Download.nsf/0/6C3028A59691DED9C1257995003E39AC/$FILE/Inbrief_12_e_AHC.pdf

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In an interview with a retired public manager of a Berlin tax revenue office, we went through the topic of leadership in several sessions. First of all it was a great interview; I got insight into how the state finances itself.  Also it was quite interesting to see the results and how much they mirrored the findings of the private sector.  This is what I noted down in my analysis of the discussion:

1)      Several concepts known from literature have remerged, such as:

  • Value leadership as the driving concept, here specifically the value of justice. A driving value used to
    • Resolve conflicts
    • Make decisions – even to the extent to which the decision might go against assumed organizational interests and generally accepted behavioral norms.
    • Influence employees
    • Create culture
  • The concepts of culture and sub-culture and these being dependant on the leaders values and behavior
  • The concept of coaching as a main source for personnel development
  • The concept of employees as stars, cash cows and poor dogs, but presented here in the concept of a “Gauss distribution curve”, with the top 5 to 10% of employees as high performers, the middle 80 to 90% as medium performers, and the bottom 5 to 10 % as low performers.  This included different strategies on how to address these different employee groups.
  • External collaboration, political management: According to the subject, very little contact to the political level existed, however: “It is necessary to have ‘Bundesgenossen’ (strong allies) to influence the political level.” … and in this specific case to improve cooperation between agencies.
  • Internal collaborative leadership

2)      New concepts emerged, which have not yet been observed in existing literature:

  • An office can have “goodwill”. According to the subject, leaders need to build the “goodwill” of an organization to incur trust in oversight bodies to allow the leader more flexibility in solving problems, while at the same time not overstepping any legal boundaries. The concept of “goodwill”, known in the private sector, and here referred to a virtual value of the organization,  reminds the researcher very much of the concept of “social capital” (Fukuyama, 1995) which is needed for individuals to trust each other and to foster collaboration.
  • The concept of empathy, which Crosby and Bryson (2005) perhaps define as “caring for the common good”. In this case  Mr. C. said: “We have to be aware that people suffer and we should try, if possible, to ease their suffering.”

I still like the idea that a good leader instills trust into collaborating agencies and thus creates public value and I thought I had hit a jackpot in my research.  But I was overly enthusiastic about having discovered the connection of leadership and social capital in fact there are some very good papers out there which did just that. I can just name three of them:

  • Hitt, M. A. & Ireland, R.D. (2002) The Essence of Strategic Leadership: Managing Human and Social Capital
  • King, N.K.  (2004) Social Capital and Nonprofit Leaders
  • Maak, T.  (2007) Responsible Leadership, Stakeholder Engagement, and the Emergence of Social Capital

Instead of ranting on what a great concept that is and how social capital relates to values, culture, internally and externally, I will give a little room for those excellent researchers.

King writes: “Nonprofits and their leaders would do well to take stock of their organization’s social capital, assessing the strengths and areas for improvement. The assessment could include identifying strategic networks and relationships that they need to developed. Importantly, this audit could also help the organization identify any problems or costs related to generating or leveraging social capital.”

Maak writes: “To conclude, I suggest to think of a responsible leader with respect to stakeholder engagement as a weaver of social ties, as an embedded and engaged networker who makes sure that her organization is ‘in sync’ with stakeholder expectations, and who is able to mobilize multiple stakeholders in a coalition to build a responsible and sustainable business.”

A leader as a weaver of social capital – I like that.


Crosby, C. & Bryson, J.  (2005) “Leadership for the common good”, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons

Fukuyama, F.  (1995), “Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity”, New York: Free Press

Hitt, M. A. & Ireland, R.D. (2002) The Essence of Strategic Leadership: Managing Human and Social Capital, The Joumal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 2002, Vol. 9, No.l

King, N. K  (2004) Social Capital and Nonprofit Leaders,  NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP, vol. 14, no. 4, Summer 2004

Maak, T.  (2007) Responsible Leadership, Stakeholder Engagement, and the Emergence of Social Capital,  Journal of Business Ethics (2007) 74:329–343

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