Middle East Monitor / December 23, 2019
The Swiss Foreign Ministry has lifted its five-month freeze on payments to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
It included accusations against UNRWA’s management of “nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives, jeopardising the credibility and interests of the agency.”
However, in early November, UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a statement saying that the preliminary findings of an internal UN probe found no “fraud or misappropriation of operational funds.” Guterres added, though, that there are “managerial issues that need to be addressed.”
On Friday, the Foreign Ministry in Switzerland confirmed to Swissinfo.ch, a news and information platform operated by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, that it had decided to contribute $713,360 (CHF700,000) to ongoing UNRWA projects and $2 million (CHF2m) to emergency aid programmes in Syria and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Switzerland has been a donor to the Agency since it was created in 1949 and had already allocated $22.73 million before putting a freeze on its payments.
Sharp cuts in UNRWA funding have had a direct impact on the situation of Palestinians in refugee camps, in particular.
In August 2018, the US suddenly announced it would cut all funding to the Agency. Until then, the US had been its main donor with an annual contribution of $360 million.
Since the US move last year, reports have emerged of conditions worsening in the camps in Syria Lebanon and Jordan, as well as the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
UNRWA continues to struggle financially amid what is seen as a coordinated campaign to have it closed down as part of Israel’s efforts to remove refugee status from millions of Palestinians.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands also informed UNRWA of its decision to resume funding to the Agency, and agreed to provide a further $6.65 million for 2019.
UNRWA was established in December 1949 as per UN General Assembly Resolution 302. It began its operations on 1 May, 1950 to provide essential humanitarian aid to what was then just one million Palestinian refugees.
Since then, its responsibility has grown to cover the needs of over 5 million refugees scattered across occupied Palestine and neighbouring countries.