Middle East Monitor / October 12, 2021
The European Union has disbursed €92 million ($33.47 million) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), following a delay of donations since the start of the year.
In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “We remain determined to support UNRWA both politically and financially, including by providing long term reliability. The Agency plays an essential role in providing vital services to millions of Palestine refugees and stabilizing the region.”
“Our support to UNRWA is not only a humanitarian duty; it also helps to keep alive the prospects of sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians. UNRWA’s services remain key to contributing to a viable negotiated two-State solution, including a fair, agreed and realistic solution to the refugee issue.”
The European commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, added: “The EU is a reliable and predictable partner, and a top donor of UNRWA. UNRWA plays a stabilizing role in the region. It must continue to do so, with a clear focus on its core mandate. We will leave no issue off the table in finding innovative approaches to find a sustainable financing model.”
UNRWA’s funding comes almost entirely from voluntary donations made by UN member states. The agency faced severe financial difficulties since the US administration of President Donald Trump stopped US aid donations altogether in 2018.
In April, however, the administration of President Joe Biden announced that it was planning to provide $235 million in aid in a bid to engage with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and move forward with a two-state solution.
Prior to the Trump administration’s cuts, the US had been providing UNRWA some $350 million a year, more than a quarter of the agency’s $1.2 billion annual budget.
“Others need to step up and join the EU and EU Member states in providing predictable multiannual funding,” added Oliver. “We will continue to work with UNRWA to strengthen the Agency’s governance systems and help step up transparency and sound management. We remain also firmly committed to promote quality education for Palestinian children and ensure full compliance with UNESCO standards in education material.”
UNRWA was created in 1949 to provide assistance and protection for the Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes to make way for the creation of the state of Israel.
The organization currently offers its services to about 5.3 million Palestinians refugees in the occupied territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.