Thursday, June 08, 2023

Last Friday, UNRWA held a donor's conference at the UN headquarters in New York. The agency's head laid out its financial problems in his opening remarks.

Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) sounded the alarm about the Agency’s deepening funding crisis. Addressing this year’s Pledging Conference for UNRWA convened by the President of the General Assembly, Commissioner-General Lazzarini warned of the risk of the Agency’s collapse.  

 “While we are grateful for the pledges announced, they are below the funds that the Agency needs to keep over 700 UNRWA schools and 140 clinics open from September onwards,” said Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

Some of the Agency’s most committed donors have indicated they will substantially decrease their contributions in 2023.
Today, according to reports, UNRWA announced how many new pledges it received.

The answer is - close to zero.

Sama News reports:
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees UNRWA announced shocking data today, noting that it received $13 million in new pledges during the donors' conference held in New York last Friday.

UNRWA said in a statement today, "Most of the pledges referred to in the conference were merely confirmation of the amounts already received and spent in the first five months of 2023. As expected, donors are using the pledging conference to publicly confirm the support they have already provided to UNRWA this year."

Some of the announced donations, according to the UNRWA statement, were "a public confirmation of the amounts previously discussed and agreed upon with UNRWA. This money has not yet been received, but will be transferred to the agency in the coming months. We've already factored these funds into our financial projections for the rest of the year. This money has already been calculated, and the issue of receiving it will not change our financial situation, as some of the financing pledges referred to are for the year 2024 and beyond. "

UNRWA stressed, "In short, and unfortunately, only about 13 million US dollars have been announced...This funding will help reduce the expected deficit this year. Since we need about 70 million US dollars per month to cover our basic costs, this amount will not be enough to sustain the services after September.”
I could not find this announcement on the UNRWA platforms as of this writing, but it rings true. Donors have been getting tired of forever increasing demands by UNRWA - and since UNRWA has no mechanism to take people off of their rolls, it will keep increasing forever.

We've discussed before what must be done. Some 2 million "refugees" live in Jordan as Jordanian citizens. They should not be getting a dime. Jordan is a sovereign nation and provides education and health care to its citizens; nearly all of the UNRWA recipients there are full citizens, and there is no reason for the world to pay for their shelter, doctors and schooling. 

Jordan instead keeps the Palestinian and non-Palestinian citizens in separate schools, separate medical facilities and to an extent separate living areas.

Sounds like apartheid, doesn't it? But this apartheid is funded by the entire world!

There is similarly little reason for UNRWA in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has its own schools and fairly good medical facilities, Palestinian "refugees" should be allowed to use them like every Palestinian. UNRWA funds could be redirected to the PA for a couple of years to take care of the logistics of combining the two systems, but there is no reason for the world to fund Palestinian "refugees" who live within the borders of British Mandate Palestine - they are not refugees under any reasonable definition.

Of course, nearly all UNRWA aid recipients are not refugees. But before dismantling UNRWA altogether, lets solve its financial problems in a reasonable way without causing undue hardship on those who really are dependent on UNRWA services, in Lebanon, parts of Syria and Gaza. 

No one is asking these questions, at least not out loud. But without asking these questions and making the decisions to treat Palestinians just like anyone else in need, using the same criteria and the same eligibility, then things would become far worse for the Palestinians that UNRWA is supposed to be supporting.

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