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Monday, January 18, 2010

Canada moves money away from UNRWA

From the Philadelphia Bulletin:
A senior Canadian government official has briefed officials in Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the news of Canada’s decision to defund the United Nations Refugee Works Agency (UNRWA) which administers 59 refugee camps for Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendents who left their homes in the wake of the 1948 war.

UNRWA maintains Palestinian Arab refugees in their facilities under the premise and promise of return to homes and villages from 1948 that no longer exist.

All other U.N. refugee camps around the world ascribe to the principles of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which mandates that a refugee has a right to be resettled in new conditions.

The Canadian government official who announced that Canada would now defund UNRWA cited a report commissioned by the European parliament, which documented that Hamas terrorists have been chosen by the UNRWA labor union to actually administer UNRWA facilities. The official said that this report played a role in Canada’s new policy towards UNRWA.

Canada heads the “Refugee Working Group (RWG),” a subgroup of the Middle East negotiation process which was established in the wake of the Madrid Middle East Summit in October 1991, to oversee Palestinian refugee policy for the 38 nations that contribute to UNRWA.

The fact that Canada has used its position as the head of the RWG to defund UNRWA will most likely not go unnoticed by the 38 countries that contribute to the half a billion-dollar UNRWA budget.
JTA adds:

Canada is not reducing the amount of money it gives to the Palestinian Authority, "but it is now being redirected in accordance with Canadian values," Toews said. The move "will ensure accountability and foster democracy in the PA."

In the past, Canadian aid earmarked for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, went into a general operating fund in the PA's treasury. The U.N. agency runs 59 Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

In a meeting in Ramallah, Toews refused a request by the PA's minister of planning and administrative development, Ali al-Jarbawi, for aid to be given "directly" to the PA treasury, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Among the projects receiving the redirected aid are those training prosecutors, judges and police, and shoring up the Palestinian judicial sector by building courthouses.

"If we train people properly, we will have the emergence of proper institutions necessary for a state," the Post quoted Toews as saying. "It is obviously more difficult to monitor the use of money sent into general funds than specific projects."

A statement from Toews' office said Canada is "on track" to deliver on its pledge of $300 million over five years to the PA.

Toews said Ottawa needed "to ensure that [the Palestinian Authority] has less wide discretion."

I'm not certain how funds that went straight to the PA made it to UNRWA anyway.

Either way, it is refreshing to see Western nations insist on accountability from the recipients of billions of dollars.