Funding freezes for UNRWA, the United Nations agency for the Palestinians, come at a critical time

0 4

You are reading an excerpt from Today’s WorldView newsletter. Sign up for the rest for freeincluding news from around the world and interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.

The United States and its allies are suspending funding to the UN agency at a critical time for Gaza. Before the war, about 80 percent of the strip’s population depended on international aid. After months of conflict, the needs are only more dire, with nearly 9 out of 10 people displaced and at least half of the buildings in the strip damaged or destroyed.

The UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, played a vital role in distributing international aid to Gaza during the war. But after Israel said more than a dozen UNRWA workers were involved in the Hamas-led attacks on Israeli towns on October 7, the United States and at least nine other donor countries have suspended their funding pending further investigation.

Critics of the move say it will only add to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with UN officials warning the effects would be visible within weeks. Speaking to the Security Council on Wednesday, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said efforts in Gaza were “absolutely dependent on UNRWA being adequately funded and operational” and called on immediate resume funding.

The dispute over UNRWA funding comes amid a growing debate over who should pay for Gaza as the cost of the conflict mounts. In a report published on Wednesday, UN experts on economic development wrote that there is “no doubt” that “several tens of billions of dollars according to a conservative estimate would be needed to return Gaza to its pre-war state.” Current commitments from donor states would be many times lower than that.

The Biden administration has pinned its hopes on Arab states to help rebuild Gaza, with the condition that Israel agrees to recognize a Palestinian state. But at a press conference with his Saudi counterpart on Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry condemned the decision to withdraw funds from UNRWA, warning against the “unwarranted scapegoating” of the entire staff of the UNRWA. group, which has about 30,000 in total with about 12,000 in Gaza.

Israel’s intelligence prompted the US to quickly cut aid funding to Gaza

For UNRWA, funding issues are not new. The year after the previous round of war in Gaza in 2014, officials from the UN agency announced that they had to suspend reconstruction efforts in the strip because they had run out of money: While Countries had pledged $5.4 billion in aid, “almost none of which has reached Gaza,” the group said in a statement.

In 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would cut funding to UNRWA, a move that the agency said would leave it with a hole in funding of up to $446 million. While other countries stepped in to help fill the gap, there was still a $200 million shortfall, UNRWA officials told the Washington Post at the time. US funding was restored during the Biden administration.

At the beginning of 2023, UNRWA Commissioner Phillipe Lazzarini told reporters that the country had a deficit of $70 million the previous year – the fourth in a row that it had lost money. Some major donors in the past, including Britain, had reduced their contributions to foreign aid in general, he noted, but were particularly focused on Arab states that allowed the they contributed to the collapse of UNRWA in recent years.

“I have seen some movements in the region,” he told reporters when asked about the financing of these countries last year. “The first one? In fact, the Arab contribution in 2018 represented about 25 percent of the total contribution to the organization. In 2021, it was less than 3 percent, and last year it was 4 percent. “

The suspension of aid this week could signal a much bigger problem if not resolved. So far, 11 different donors have canceled their funding. The United States provided $344 million in funding in 2022, according to UNRWA statistics, making it the largest donor to the organization. The second largest donor, Germany, also suspended funding this week.

UNRWA has pledged to conduct an internal investigation into Israel’s allegations and immediately dismissed nine staff, while the United Nations’ top investigative agency, the Office of Internal Investigative Services, has York, working on a separate study. The United States and other countries have indicated that they may withdraw funding if UNRWA makes changes.

As famine looms in Gaza, aid delivery remains difficult and dangerous

But for many supporters of Israel, the solution is to get rid of UNRWA for good. Critics of the agency have long argued that the agency’s work should be subsumed under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a separate UN agency that focuses on refugees. Resettlement that cannot return home.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said UNRWA had been “fundamentally threatened” by Hamas, insisting without evidence that around 10 percent of the group’s employees in the Gaza Strip are members of it or another militant group. “There are more than a dozen bad apples. Add two zeros. And make it 1,200,” said the spokesperson, Eylon Levy.

In a statement on Wednesday, the heads of several UN agencies – including UNHCR – warned that there was no place for UNRWA and that cutting off funding for the organization would have a “terrible impact” on those in Gaza. “No other organization has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of aid that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need,” they wrote.

In the short term at least, even Israeli officials may agree. “If UNRWA stops working on the ground, this could cause a humanitarian disaster that would force Israel to stop its fight against Hamas,” said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity. , says the Times of Israel. “This would not be in the interest of Israel and it would not be in the interest of Israel’s allies either.”

But it is not just Israel, or the West, that is willing to let UNRWA decline. “My message to the Arab world, especially the Gulf, is where are you?” Chris Gunness, a former UNRWA spokesman, told Al Jazeera this weekend. “Because they make billions every day on oil revenue. A small fraction of that oil revenue would see UNRWA’s financial problems overnight.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.