Building 'civil society' in Palestine 1993-1998 : four case studies of Palestinian non-governmental organizations.
This thesis looks in depth at the efforts of Palestinian NGOs to build 'civil society' during the
period after the transfer of power from Israeli occupation to Palestinian National Authority
(PNA) in 1993 till 1998. The process of building civil society is shown in the thesis to be
understood differently by NGOs, the PNA and international donors in the functions that it
involves and the position that NGOs ought to occupy within the Palestinian community.
Drawing on the civil society literature, a working definition of the process of building civil
society is developed for the purposes of the study which emphasises three dimensions: (i) NGO
efforts to gain public influence either by influencing public debate, rights and duties or public
policies; (ii) NGO attempts to strengthen community solidarity and (iii) NGO work to promote
democratic organisational practices within their own organisations. A set of four NGO case
studies was collected and the data analysed with reference to social theory literature, drawing in
particular on Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, field and capital. It was found that a set of internal
and external obstacles limited NGO efforts to build civil society. These included lack of
support from the PNA, the continuation of Israeli occupation in different forms and lack of
interest in the community. These obstacles reduced the ability of NGOs to realise this role
effectively. Of the three dimensions of the process of building civil society it was only the
second one - that of strengthening community solidarity - that NGOs focused on as a way of
combating the difficult economic circumstances that Palestinian Territories were experiencing.
The thesis concludes that Palestinian NGOs had the potential to build civil society but they
needed more appropriate external and internal circumstances to be entrusted with carrying out