News ID: 230713
Published: 0225 GMT September 02, 2018

UNRWA official: US funding cut politicization of humanitarian aid

UNRWA official: US funding cut politicization of humanitarian aid

The United States’ decision to cut funding for the UN Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) is “an evident politicization of humanitarian aid,” according to the organization’s commissioner general.

UNRWA, which says it provides services to more than five million Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, currently faces a budget deficit of $270 million for the remainder of the year, after the US government slashed its budget by $300 million, reported.

In an open letter to the agency’s staff, Pierre Krahenbul dismissed claims made by US State Department that it was an “irredeemably flawed operation” and prolonged the status of refugees.

“The responsibility for the protracted nature of the Palestine refugee-hood, the growing number of refugees and the growth in needs, lies squarely with the parties and in the international community’s lack of will or utter inability to bring about a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” wrote Krahenbul in the letter.

“The attempt to make UNRWA somehow responsible for perpetuating the crisis is disingenuous at best. At no time over the past eight months were we notified of the specific reasons for the dramatic cut.” 

Krahenbul went on to say that the decision taken by the US, which has been its most generous and consistent donor since 1974, will not have any bearing on UNRWA’s responsibility towards Palestine refugees or affect the “energy and passion” it carries out.

UNRWA was formed in 1949 following the forced displacement of 700,000 Palestinians by Zionist paramilitaries in the run-up to the establishment of the Israeli regime.

Over the past year, more than 50 countries have contributed to the agency.

In recent years, the European Union has been the second largest contributor. It pledged more than $142 million in 2017.

In a statement published on Saturday, the EU termed the US decision “regrettable,” one that will leave a “substantial gap” in the agency’s funding.

“The EU is committed to secure the continuation and sustainability of the agency’s work, which is vital for stability and security in the region,” the statement said.

“The EU and its member states, and many others in the international community, including many Arab states, have pledged their support to the continuity of the work that UNRWA is doing.”

In the run-up to the UN General Assembly session later this month, EU foreign ministers, along with their international and regional partners, will discuss how to guarantee sustainable and effective aid to Palestinians, the statement added.

Following the US announcement, Germany announced it will increase funding for UNRWA, its foreign minister said.

“The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction,” Heiko Maas said on Saturday before adding that while Germany contributed $94 million to UNRWA this year, it was prepared to increase its financial aid.

Maas also urged the EU and member states to work towards “a sustainable finance basis for the organization.”

His statement was echoed by Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney, who called the US decision “heartless and dangerous.”

“Ireland is a long-standing supporter of UNRWA,” said Coveney. “We will continue that assistance and discuss with our EU and other partners what more can be done to support its work.” 

On the same day, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said his country will rally donor support to ease UNRAW’s financial crisis.


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