Which countries have resumed funding to UNRWA in Gaza?

Some donors pledge funds to aid agency in exchange for reforms, while others await outcome of investigations

UNRWA's facilities in Gaza city have been damaged by Israeli strikes. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

Several major UNRWA donors have resumed funding for the Palestinian refugee aid agency, weeks after it was caught up in a scandal over alleged militant links.

About 20 countries suspended donations after Israeli intelligence alleged in January that UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 attack by Hamas that triggered the war in Gaza.

Twelve UNRWA staff were sacked and two UN-appointed panels are reviewing its work, but the agency has pleaded with donors to maintain funding during the crisis in Gaza.

Backers of UNRWA say the 75-year-old agency is the only one with the presence and reach to deliver effective humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

With pressure growing to ease Gaza's suffering, some countries have chosen to reinstate funding before the two investigations have finished.

Having warned money could run low by March, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini now says the situation is “less dramatic” and that funding is secure until May.

Resuming funding

Annual pre-war donations in brackets

France ($28.9m)

France says it will provide €30 million ($32 million) this year as long “conditions are met for UNRWA to carry out its missions in a spirit devoid of calls for hatred and violence.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that Paris “very favourably welcomed” pledges by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to make reforms to UNRWA.

He also welcomed the external review being led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna. An interim report on March 20 said it there were “critical areas” that needed to be addressed. A final report is due next month.

Unlike some donors, France did not formally announce a suspension of funding but said it had no transfers planned in early 2024 and would decide on next steps “in light of measures taken by the UN”.

Japan ($30.1m)

UNRWA left talks in Tokyo on Friday with a promise that new funding from Japan is moving to the “final co-ordination” phase.

In return, Mr Lazzarini promised better screening of staff and more oversight of field offices to meet Japan's demand that “our assistance is not used for any terrorist activities”.

It also pledged to address “issues of concern” in school textbooks used by UNRWA, which have previously been the subject of anti-Semitism accusations.

Japan did not reveal the size of any new donation but said it was moving to “resume its contribution”, worth $30.1 million in 2022.

Sweden ($61m)

Sweden approved 200 million kronor ($18.7 million) of funding on March 9, saying it had received assurances from UNRWA about transparency and internal checks on staff.

A further 200 million kronor is earmarked for UNRWA later this year if it “makes progress on the measures to which it has agreed” to strengthen supervision.

Fredrik Floren, the Swedish ambassador to the UAE, this week assured The National of a “very clear humanitarian engagement from our side, as well as various political support for a two-state solution”.

Finland ($7.8m)

Finland announced €5 million ($5.39 million) of new funding on March 22, saying 10 per cent of it would go on preventing misconduct within UNRWA.

It said there was no present alternative to UNRWA despite what it called “clear shortcomings” in the agency's use of funds and facilities.

UNRWA promised that “misconduct will be tackled with enhanced effectiveness”, said the Foreign Ministry in Helsinki. Finland's terms also include an annual meeting on risk management.

Finland's ambassador in the UAE, Tuula Yrjola, told The National she hoped European aid would help counter claims of double standards in the EU's approach to Gaza compared to other conflicts.

EU ($114.2m)

A €50 million ($53.9 million) payment was approved from the central EU budget on March after UNRWA agreed to a further audit by European officials.

The audit will look at UNRWA's “control systems to prevent the possible involvement of its staff and assets in terrorist activities”.

Two further €16 million ($17.3 million) transfers are being held back as an incentive for UNRWA to meet its promises to improve vetting.

Canada ($23.7m)

Canada lifted its suspension on March 8 “in recognition of robust investigative processes under way” as well as the escalating crisis in Gaza.

It said it would continue to “pursue accountability and reforms” and for UNRWA to show “determination to improve its own security systems”.

Officials said no scheduled payment had been missed from what is typically a contribution of just under $25 million a year.

Partially resumed

Germany ($202.1 million)

Germany, UNRWA's second-biggest donor, announced €45 million ($48.5 million) of new funding on Monday but only for the agency's work outside Gaza.

The money will go on projects such as food aid for the occupied West Bank and health and education for displaced Palestinians in Jordan and Lebanon.

Future aid for UNRWA in Gaza “will depend on the progress” of the two investigations and how the UN responds to their findings, officials in Berlin said.

Germany says no regular payments for Gaza are pending and that it has increased funding for other humanitarian players such as the World Food Programme and Unicef.

Still suspended

United States ($343.9m)

Israel's closest ally looks set to withhold funds from UNRWA until at least March 2025.

Wording to that effect was added to a $1.2 trillion budget deal passed by Congress and signed by US President Joe Biden last week.

However, Canada says Washington has been quietly asking allies to keep providing aid. The US State Department did not deny this.

By 2025, former president Donald Trump could be back in the White House, having stopped payments to UNRWA in 2018. Mr Biden resumed them in 2021.

United Kingdom ($21.2m)

Britain says it will “look very carefully” at the results of the two investigations before deciding whether to resume funding for UNRWA.

The UK hopes that “measures will be taken that will allow everyone, not just Britain, to restore funding to UNRWA in due course”, Development Minister Andrew Mitchell said this week.

Officials say no payments are outstanding before the end of the current financial year in April.

Italy ($18.0m)

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said last week that UNRWA must shed “full light” on Israel's allegations before Italy resumes funding.

“Until full light is shed on the use of the resources, we must not make this mistake,” Ms Meloni said.

Italy has launched a separate initiative called Food for Gaza and made payments to the Red Cross to help people in Gaza, officials say.

Never stopped

Some donors in Europe bucked the western trend by never suspending payments to UNRWA in the first place.

They included Norway, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

UNRWA's top donors outside the West include Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which did not pause funding.

Updated: April 09, 2024, 10:47 AM