UNRWA Funding Crisis Intensifies Amidst Allegations - Urgent Call for Reversal of Donor Decisions
By: ATN News
United Nations: In a crucial session of the Palestinian Rights Committee today, speakers appealed to donor countries that had suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to reconsider their decisions. The funding freeze follows allegations of staff involvement in the October 7 attacks against Israel. Speakers emphasized that the suspension of funds would adversely impact millions of aid recipients, rather than addressing the individuals implicated in the case.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the vital role of UNRWA as the "backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza" and urged Member States to ensure the continuity of its life-saving work. Guterres expressed personal horror at the serious allegations against UNRWA staff and highlighted the immediate actions taken by the United Nations in response.
Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, reported a dire situation in Rafah near the Egypt border, with displaced people facing an uncertain future. Mansour called for Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations, advocating for a two-State solution through an international peace conference.
Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office New York, urged donor countries to reconsider their funding suspension, warning that the agency would run out of money by February 2024. She emphasized the catastrophic impact on humanitarian operations in Gaza and the wider region if UNRWA's services were to cease.
The Committee also heard from South Africa, which filed a case with the International Court of Justice against Israel, alleging genocide in Gaza. The Court ruled that Israel must prevent genocide and enable humanitarian aid in Gaza but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.
Committee members expressed firm support for South Africa's case, Palestine's bid for full UN membership, and the convening of an international peace conference. The representative of Indonesia stressed the need for proportionate reactions to allegations, emphasizing that innocent Palestinians should not bear the brunt of the punishment.
The representative of Türkiye, as Chair of the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA, urged donors to reverse their funding suspension, echoing support for the Court's ruling. Other nations, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Venezuela, China, and Guyana, voiced support for a ceasefire, the implementation of Court measures, and ongoing funding for UNRWA.
In conclusion, the Committee adopted its work program for 2024 and unanimously re-elected Cheikh Niang (Senegal) as Committee Chair. Niang emphasized the importance of healing wounds, advocating for a two-State solution and expressing support for initiatives aiming at the full realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The Committee pledged to continue engaging with Member States and regional groups to advance the Palestinian cause.