UNRWA chief: we face collapse due to political attacks and lack of funds

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency serving Palestinian refugees is on the verge of collapse due to violent political attacks and a lack of funding, its Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said at a donor conference in Brussels.

“Today I have to raise the alarm, because if we do not have a real solution now and for the future, the institution is on the verge of collapse,” Lazzarini told reporters after the meeting.

UNRWA has already had trouble paying its bills, including wages, he said. Lazzarini spoke after an international pledging conference that raised $ 38 million from what had been a $ 100 million budget deficit for November and December.

Lazzarini told reporters that UNRWA’s budget has largely stagnated since 2013, even though the refugee population, as well as their needs, have grown.

To date, UNRWA serves 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini visits Sheikh Jarrah on June 2 (credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Member states have not been willing to back their statements in support of the organization with real funds, Lazzarini said.

“Today I asked the member states to fulfill their political commitment to UNRWA through proportional resources,” Lazzarini explained to journalists.

When addressing the conference, Lazzarini spoke of the financial crisis and the severity of the attacks by UNRWA opponents.

“These financial threats are closely related to the increasingly frequent and vicious political attacks facing UNRWA,” Lazzarini said.

He did not name the attackers, but they include Israel, the former Trump administration, prominent US Republicans and right-wing non-governmental groups.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, urged countries not to donate to UNRWA ahead of the conference, stating: “UNRWA has long been part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Instead of functioning as a humanitarian and educational assistance agency, the agency functions as a political body promoting the Hamas narrative. [and] allows incitement and delegitimization of Israel to be written in Palestinian [school] textbooks, ”Erdan said in a statement issued from Jerusalem.

In Brussels, Hillel Neuer, who is the executive director of the NGO UN Watch, stood in front of the UNRWA conference venue and delivered information against the agency.

Neuer is among those who have denounced that some of the textbooks used in UNRWA schools have promoted anti-Semitism and incitement against Israel. It also published a study this year that provided examples of anti-Semitic posts in the media by UNRWA staff.

“I am urging here delegations from the US, the EU, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Switzerland and many other countries to demand that their money for UNRWA – our taxpayer funds – don’t go to the professors who glorify Hitler, ”he said.

UNRWA has said it strictly prohibits anti-Semitism. Lazzarini reiterated this position at the donor conference.

“Let me be clear: as Commissioner General and as a UN Agency, we have absolutely zero tolerance for any word or action that seeks to spread hatred, discrimination or violence towards any other person, people or country,” Lazzarini said.

“But there is nothing like zero risk when operating in the context of the longest unresolved conflict; a very divided and emotional environment, “Lazzarini said. However, he added: “No agency invests more than UNRWA to mitigate these risks.”

Those who argue against UNRWA, he charged, are exploiting these issues for political gain at the expense of refugee services.

“We need to do more to counter these attacks, expose their political agendas and protect Palestinian refugees from the crippling impact of these attacks,” Lazzarini said.

“We need to address these attacks for what they are,” Lazzarini said, adding that “their goal” was “to erase the rights of more than 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees, enshrined in international law and UN resolutions.” .

The attackers, he said, want to “weaken the Agency through unsubstantiated accusations of politicization and incitement. This is naive and dangerous. “

Lazzarini warned that “if these threats are not decisively addressed, they will create a vacuum and a human disaster that this region simply cannot afford.”

UNRWA has faced a financial crisis this year, despite the Biden administration’s decision to restore funding to the agency, which had been stopped by former President Donald Trump.

Until 2017, the first year of Trump’s presidency, the United States had been UNRWA’s largest donor, providing approximately $ 360 million in funding annually.

This year, the Biden administration has pledged $ 318 million to UNRWA. The second largest donor is the European Union, which has pledged $ 117 million, followed by Germany with $ 109 million, Sweden with $ 51 million, and Japan with $ 49 million.

However, the renewed US funds were used to fill the gaps left by countries that reduced their donations or chose not to donate.

Germany, for example, reduced its donation by $ 100 million, the EU by $ 30 million, and the UK by $ 25 million.

Saudi Arabia, which last year donated $ 28 million, did not even make the list of countries that donated $ 8 million or more.

Qatar and Kuwait, which were absent from that list last year, pledged $ 17 million and $ 11 million respectively this year. They were the only two Gulf countries on the list.



Reference-www.jpost.com

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