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The Humanitarian Implications of a Possible UNRWA Funding Reduction

10-01-2018 09:12

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned by the recent threats to de-fund the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA’s services have been critically important since the United Nations agency’s inception following the displacement of hundreds of thousands of original residents of Palestine, who became refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and neighboring countries.


Created by United Nations General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) in 1949, UNRWA’s mission is to protect the dignity and rights of Palestinian refugees, including through the provision of relief and employment services. UNRWA provides support and protection to approximately five million Palestinian refugees.


Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the UNRWA has faced systematic campaigns aimed at shutting it down and smearing its reputation. Such campaigns are firmly rebuked as attempts to either stop the Agency’s operations or control its mission and policies.


Recently, these campaigns have increased along with calls from the Israeli government to terminate UNRWA’s operations. The United States responded in favor, announcing an intention to cease financial support to the Agency.


These developments coincide with an increase in demand for UNRWA’s services, particularly humanitarian protection; however, reflecting a consistently inadequate budget, UNRWA’s service delivery has continued to decrease.  


The unprecedented deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory has been well documented.[1] In the Gaza Strip, this deterioration has been most dramatic due to Israel’s closure/blockade and systematic destruction of basic infrastructure. In the West Bank, Israel has perpetuated economic dependency, while continuing to separate cities and villages from each other, seize lands and resources, and destroy civilian property.


The decrease             or freeze of funding to UNRWA may significantly affect its ability to implement its mandate, and thus limit the scope of the Agency’s work. The current needs are fundamental, and include primary and vocational education, healthcare, social support, poverty alleviation, and improvement of the infrastructure, health and environmental conditions in refugee camps.




According to the 2017 UN report “Gaza – 10 Years Later”, Gaza will be unable to support proper human life by 2020. Al Mezan reminds the international community of this critical warning. Without urgent remedial action that will require funding alongside political intervention, the looming catastrophe could well affect neighboring countries as well.


At a time when the Israeli government continues to prevent the Palestinian population from accessing their legitimate human rights, especially the right to self-determination, and the international community remains without a just and durable solution to the Palestine refugee issue, Al Mezan reiterates its deepest concern for the implications of diminishing contributions to UNRWA and calls for support of the Agency’s role.


Al Mezan strongly condemns the use of humanitarian aid as leverage for political gains. Instead, the international community should invest in joint efforts to find a final and lasting solution to the most prolonged refugee problem in modern history. Al Mezan calls on the international community to honor its moral and legal obligations to the Palestinians in the oPt by:

  • Providing humanitarian protection;
  • Exercising pressure on Israel to stop its systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws; and
  • Immediately taking steps to enable Palestinians’ full access to their human rights.


[1] See for example, ‘Gaza Ten Years Later’ July 2017