Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 November 2020

UNRWA says it is facing the worst financial crisis in its history

UNRWA has asked donors to fulfil their financial obligations to help the agency provide its services to the Palestinian refugees

A Palestinian demonstrator holds a United Nations flag during a protest against US funding cuts. Reuters
A Palestinian demonstrator holds a United Nations flag during a protest against US funding cuts. Reuters

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says it is facing the worst financial crisis in its history during a meeting at the Dead Sea on Monday.

Christian Saunders said the UN agency has a budget deficit of US$332 million, and that it needs $176 million now to continue to provide minimum services and $80 million monthly.

"Next month, we will need additional $40 million to provide food and medicines," Mr Saunders said, according to Anadolu Agency.

Mr Saunders said UNRWA has asked donors to fulfil their financial obligations to help the agency provide its services to the Palestinian refugees.

The UAE and other Gulf countries have previously provided donations to help plug the funding gap.

Established in 1949, UNRWA delivers critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

In 2018, the US cut funding to UNRWA, significantly diminishing its resources. Washington had been the largest donor to UNRWA, providing about $350 million annually, equivalent to about one quarter of the agency's annual budget.

It comes as Washington's backed Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, even as Palestinians and Arab leaders said it was a threat to the international rule of law.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared last week that Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian lands were not illegal — a major shift in US policy.

“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Mr Pompeo said at the State Department.

The shift is based on “legal analysis and review”, he said.

It effectively repudiates a 1978 State Department legal opinion that says civilian settlements in the Occupied Territories are inconsistent with international law.

“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Mr Pompeo said.

“The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran negotiator and member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee, told The National after the announcement that US President Donald Trump and Mr Pompeo were “trying to reshape the world” by allowing Israel to accelerate construction of illegal outposts.

“This is a licence to kill," Ms Ashrawi said. "Clearly it is a green light, and an active encouragement. I don’t think they can do any more. They have attacked every single component of the Palestinians.

Updated: November 25, 2019 07:36 PM

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