UN Palestine aid agency is ‘close to collapse’ after funding cuts

1 year ago 112

Cuts to the fund of the UN’s alleviation bureau for Palestinians – including a halving of the UK assistance – means the bureau is adjacent to collapse, the caput of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, has said. The UK has chopped its halfway assistance by much than 50% from £42.5m successful 2020 to £20.8m successful 2021.

Lazzarini, the commissioner wide of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which serves Palestinians successful the West Bank and Gaza but besides successful Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, said the bureau was successful an existential situation owed to a $100m (£74m) shortfall this year, but besides due to the fact that of a method of semipermanent backing that has proved unsustainable.

He said the temper among Palestinians was 1 of distress, boiling despair and hopelessness. When the UN bureau is struggling financially to present the astir indispensable services it creates a heavy consciousness of abandonment, helium said.

The UK was the 3rd largest wide donor to UNRWA successful 2020, but its latest chopped starts to enactment the UK successful the 2nd tier of contributors. The bureau operates astir 700 schools catering for 550,000 children, and provides wellness centres and societal payment to Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

“It is simply a nonstop interaction of this argumentation determination to trim the assistance fund from the equivalent of 0.7% of gross nationalist income to 0.5%,” Lazzarini said. “It has a humanitarian impact. It has a quality improvement impact. We cipher the alteration successful assistance arsenic the equivalent of much than 70,000 boys and girls successful our schools.”

Lazzarini, who was successful London to impulse the Foreign Office to rethink the cuts, denied the organisation was bloated. “We person had the aforesaid resources arsenic 2013, and yet implicit the years we person had galore demands placed upon us, truthful we person had nary different prime but to spell for drastic austerity measures to support services afloat,” helium said.

He said the agency’s halfway $800m fund needed to beryllium enactment connected a much predictable footing and determination would beryllium a peculiar league successful Brussels this period to impulse donors to extremity the yearly hand-to-mouth backing of the agency.

UNRWA was deed hard successful 2018 erstwhile Donald Trump halted US funding, leaving different countries to scramble to capable the unexpected deficit. But the re-engagement of the US nether Joe Biden has been offset by the deficiency of multi-year commitments arsenic yet from the Gulf countries, and by decreases from different countries specified arsenic the UK.

The Gulf contributions person fallen $200m successful 2018 to $87m successful 2019 to $37m successful 2020, and truthful acold the Gulf states person lone offered $20m for this year.

“It is not a short-term problem. Our existent backing exemplary is starring the bureau to a collapse,” Lazzarini said. “It has go truthful unstable it is causing an existential menace to the organisation. Year aft year, we are successful an ever much exacerbated situation.

“Right present astatine the opening of November, I person thing successful my slope account. I bash not cognize however I volition screen the costs and salaries and that means thousands of teachers and thousands of wellness workers, and that means losing captious services successful a highly unstable environment.

“We started this twelvemonth with a captious liability. I cannot people money. I cannot get money. All I tin bash is hold and physique up.”

Lazzarini said UNRWA was “irreplaceable” erstwhile it came to providing acquisition to Palestinian refugees. “It is simply a bully question what happens to these children if we cannot amended them, and the schools are shut. There volition beryllium a void. We would participate into uncharted territory, and the question is, who volition capable this spread successful places similar Gaza, successful the exile camps successful Lebanon. We bash not person the answer.”

Faced by repeated disapproval of anti-Israeli bias successful the schoolhouse curriculum, helium said: “Every twelvemonth we person tens of schools that are rewarded by the British Council for the prime of their education. By investing successful the acquisition of much than 500,000 boys and girls successful the region, we are not lone investing successful the aboriginal but successful the stableness of the region.”

He accepts that successful the Trump epoch it was unfastened play for critics of the organisation. “We are taxable sometimes to vicious governmental attacks usually done the lens of the schoolhouse curriculum, but successful world it is due to the fact that determination is simply a naive presumption that if the bureau is weakened oregon eliminated past an obstacle to lasting stableness volition person been addressed.

“It is not UNRWA that is perpetuating exile statehood. Refugee statehood is perpetuated by the lack of a governmental solution, and determination is nary Palestinian, I committedness you, that wants to stay a exile aft specified a agelong time.”