Mashav: Still up and running

Mashav is the organization that puts into effect the emphasis on Development Diplomacy.

Philippines typhoon 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Philippines typhoon 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
From a recent Jerusalem Post editorial (“Israel in the Philippines”, November 18, 2013) readers might have taken away the impression that Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, ceased its activities after third world nations turned their back on Israel after the Yom Kippur War and the “Zionism = racism” declaration.
From my involvement with Mashav in recent years, I can reassure readers that this is not the case.
Mashav is the organization that puts into effect the emphasis on Development Diplomacy, which is an important focus of Israel’s foreign policy. From the foundation of the state, Israel has been a kind of development laboratory in numerous fields, and in 1958 Mashav was created so as to offer the fruits of Israel’s experience to other nations.
Since then, Mashav’s activities have broadened from assistance in agricultural methods, education, particularly in early childhood, public health and the role of women in promoting development to include humanitarian projects, including assistance to nations suffering from the effects of natural disasters, on the basis of the ideals of “Tikkun Olam.”
Israel has also been involved from the start in the international discourse, in the United Nations and other bodies, on Global Development Policy, and was a leader in bringing about several declarations in the General Assembly on Agricultural Technology for Development and Entrepreneurship for Development.
Israel’s experience and insights have also led to emphasis on promoting innovative thinking, entrepreneurship, water management, energy conservation, protection of children and empowerment and equality for women, and the role of the judiciary in promoting these goals.
But Israel’s involvement goes much farther than formulation of policies.
Central to Mashav’s activities is working with governments and NGOs in those states who ask for help; the focus is on capacity building – showing how to set up projects with minimal budgets, and assisting in the initial stages until these projects find their feet. These activities are ongoing in Africa, Central and South America, and Asia.
Among many other projects, Israeli experts have helped their local counterparts to: • Set up kindergartens in African countries, including training teachers and advising on equipment • Set up AIDS clinics in remote areas in Africa • Set up programs for the elderly in South America • Set up advice centers for setting up small businesses in Central America Some examples from my own experience:
• In 2010 Mashav conducted a week-long seminar for Family Court Judges in Zambia, on gender-based violence. Together with Dr. Hanita Zimrin of ELI, the child protection organization, I traveled to Lusaka and 25 or so judges learned, not only about the theoretical aspects of violence in the family and its effects particularly on children, but also about how Israel’s court system, social services and voluntary sector address these issues.
• In September 2011, I lectured at a seminar, organized by Mashav together with IOM, the International Organization for Migration, at the Mount Carmel International Training Center (MCTC) in Haifa on violence against women and children.
As well as participants from Africa (Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya) and Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru), senior officials from police forces and prosecutors, lawyers and advocates for women, and other professions, attended from China (PRC ), Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Russia, Serbia, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam.
I also lectured at a similar workshop in October 2012 which was organized at MCTC, this time also in cooperation with UNESCO , and in June 2013.
• In May 2012 the MCTC hosted a workshop on trafficking in women and children, including issues relating to trans-national surrogacy; representatives from 19 countries attended, including Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Albania and Turkmenistan. The US embassy in Tel Aviv took part in organizing the workshop.
• In cooperation with OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, UNODC , the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, IOM and Israel’s Justice Ministry, an international seminar for judges on the critical role of the judiciary in combating trafficking in persons took place in August this year. This was a fine opportunity for Israeli judges to meet their counterparts from five continents and discuss, on the basis of Israel’s success in prosecuting traffickers in women and girls, how judicial officers in the various countries can cooperate and learn from each other.
These activities, in Israel and abroad, spill over into diplomatic and personal connections which are of outstanding importance in advancing Israel’s case in the face of mendacious campaigns by our enemies.
Since its foundation, over 270,000 persons, mainly middle and high-ranking government and NGO representatives, from most of the countries of the world, have participated, in their home countries or attending seminars at MCTC, in Mashav’s activities. Every year, thousands more, including from countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations, take part in seminars and pilot projects.
From my discussions with participants from a wide variety of countries, it is clear that alongside the material learned from Israeli experts, they come away with a highly positive view of Israel. Participants from China and India are astonished at how much has been achieved by a tiny country with only eight million inhabitants; a participant from Nepal, visiting Yad Vashem, asked repeatedly how the Holocaust could happen and why Israel did not exist before 1948.
This view of Israel is communicated to their colleagues, and there are many reports of senior officials of foreign governments who carry with them into their influential positions the impressions of Israel which they gained from involvement with Mashav projects or attending seminars at MCTC.
Mashav is a significant player in Israel’s ongoing public diplomacy efforts, despite its minimal budget, and its widespread activities are proof that the suggestion that Israel is isolated has no basis in fact.
The author is a retired judge of the Jerusalem Family Court.