Palestinian fears ‘Arabisation’ of UNRWA funding

Palestinians at the UNRWA building in Gaza City on 17 September 2019

Middle East Monitor reports:

A number of Palestinian warnings have recently been issued against the “Arabisation of UNRWA”; a process which is coming about through the increasing Arab-funded of the body in light of the decline in international funding. This is a result of American and Israeli pressures and the increased American drive to end UNRWA’s mandate.

Palestinians are exhausting their efforts and contacts to obtain the international community’s support to renew UNRWA’s mandate for another three years. They have received successive warning of the gradual decline in financial aid to UNRWA.

Palestinians fear what can be described as the gradual “Arabisation” of UNRWA; making it Arab-funded. The Palestinian reading indicates that US funding cuts may prompt some Arab countries to provide alternative funding. Although Arab funding is important, UNRWA is the responsibility of the international community as a whole and not just Arab nations. International funding must continue, as this reflects international responsibility for the 1948 refugee tragedy, as a result of the international community’s failure to protect Palestinians and to implement the relevant UN resolutions, in particular resolution 194.

Palestinians are also concerned that the US is pushing for UNRWA’s mandate to be renewed annually rather than every three years as us currently the case. Voting on the agency’s mandate begins on the first od December at the UN General Assembly.

In order to address these concerns, Palestinians are demanding UNRWA have a permanent budget like similar international organisations including UNESCO and FAO.  In 2019, UNRWA’s budget was approximately $749 million, in 2015 its budget was $744 million, in 2014 it reached $732 million, and in 2010 it amounted to $863 million.

UNRWA has been facing financial challenges since 2018, when the US administration decided to reduce its assistance from $360 million to only $60 million. The United States is UNRWA’s largest donor, and annually provides 40 per cent of its total budget, worth $360 million, focused on health care, education and social services for Palestine refugees in UNRWA’s five areas of operation: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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