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UNRWA running out of money

The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) told the UN Security Council yesterday that the organisation could reach a funding crisis by mid-June.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl told the Security Council that his organisation required an additional $1.2bn for its activities in 2019. He said: “We don’t believe the future of Palestine refugees should be framed in decades of UNRWA. They deserve a better political future. Until then, we will continue to operate.”

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Middle East Envoy, said: “Humanitarian and economic support is very important for people, and it is also critical as for creating an environment conducive for viable negotiations. However, the solution to the conflict remains fundamentally political. There are no shortcuts to sustainable peace.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: “What began as 750,000 Palestinian refugees has now turned into over 5 million, simply because of UNRWA. By manipulating the scale of the Palestinian refugee problem, UNRWA plays a direct and biased role in the politics of the conflict.”

Jason Greenblatt, US Special Representative for International Negotiations, said the time had come to shut down UNRWA. Speaking at the Security Council meeting, he said: “We need to engage with host governments to start a conversation about planning the transition of UNRWA services to host governments, or to other international or local non-governmental organisations, as appropriate…the UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people”.

He added: “UNRWA is currently running on fumes surviving on a surge in foreign donations in 2018 that is unlikely to be sustained this year, or in the future. The UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people. UNRWA is a Band-Aid, and the Palestinians who use its services deserve better – much better. We do not have to wait until a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in place to address that fact.”

Greenblatt urged the Palestinian Authority to reverse its decision to boycott the economic workshop in Bahrain on 25 June where the US administration is planning to unveil the economic part of its plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have already confirmed their attendance.

In August 2018 the US administration announced it would cease funding UNRWA. In 2017 and 2018 it gave UNWRA $364m and $60m. UNRWA’s total budget is $1.15bn and the UK gives $93m.