In 2006, three independent developments converged to make a Palestinian community foundation an obvious and strategic way to effect a permanent, structural improvement in Palestinian lives. First, the January legislative elections that brought the Hamas movement to power within the Palestinian Authority led almost immediately to a near-total cut-off of budgetary support and severe reductions and restrictions in support to civil society. Overnight, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who had been the largest per capital recipients of international aid in the world plummeted even further into poverty, and became even more vulnerable to the violence of the Israeli occupation. Emergency aid channeled through multilateral organizations and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), has not compensated for the loss of earned income, and in fact, has deepened the sense of indignity and hopelessness that has pervaded the lives of generations of Palestinians.
Second, after over 150 meetings in 2004 and 2005 with Palestinian civil society leaders, activists, professionals, and philanthropic experts from around the world, a core group of Palestinians became convinced that an endowed community foundation -- as idealistic as this seems -- was worth pursuing. A working group of dedicated volunteers formed, adding the community foundation to their long list of community activities. This energy fed on itself and even persisted through the very difficult period of the war against Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza incursions.
Third, a series of well-timed encounters with leaders in international philanthropy (including a paid invitation to participate in the "Grantmakers without Borders" conference in June 2006) led to a wellspring of support, jumpstarting our development.
Founding Activities of Dalia Association
Establishment of Dalia Association - A retreat with the original working group members was held in Jericho, West Bank on September 28-29, 2006 with funding from Birzeit University Center for Continuing Education. The decision to hold it in Jericho was made to ensure that the majority of working group members could attend, given the logistical obstacles relating to the Israeli permit system that is imposed on Palestinians which makes movement extremely difficult and sometimes impossible. A second retreat was held in Ramallah on October 6, 2006 to complete the participatory process, which began in Jericho. The cumulative achievements of these meetings were: the Founding Board of Directors was identified; Dalia mission statement was created; Dalia vision and future strategies were decided; Dalia organizational name was chosen; and a governance structure was established with committees formed.
Registration of Dalia Association as a Legal Entity - The Palestinian Authority officially halted new Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) registrations and the Founding Board decided to register in Belgium and contracted an attorney to begin the process. The decision to register in Belgium was assisted greatly by technical assistance from the Arab Human Rights Fund and Welfare Association, particularly their provision of three international studies comparing possible countries for registration. Dalia Association was registered as a legal entity on January 3, 2007. The legal fees for registration were contributed by the founding board members and other members of the working group.
Local Contributions, Partnerships and Volunteerism - We have been successful in mobilizing various kinds of support and assistance. The Quaker International Service provided use of a furnished office with computer and internet access inside their beautiful building in Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives. Birzeit University Continuing Education Center fully funded our founding retreat, including hotel, food, travel, and a facilitator and have hosted follow-up meetings. We have the ongoing volunteer support from accountants; a highly respected lawyer; and IT support. Local artists and photographers have also been generous with their support. Dalia was pleased to enjoy a strategic partnership with CARE International, West Bank and Gaza, through which we have received technical assistance in areas such as human resources, communications, and legal compliance. We also have support from many other national and international friends. Lastly, two of our board members volunteer 3-5 full days per week for Dalia.