A MAN STANDS next to a cart carrying a sack of flour distributed by UNRWA in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in January, 2018..
(photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
European states must increase funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees to stem the crisis created by lack of US funds, the European Parliament said on Thursday.
In a resolution that passed by a show of hand, it urged “the European Union and its member states to mobilize additional funding for UNRWA in order to meet its short-term financial needs.”
It called on the EU to take the lead in establishing a global multilateral framework that would help ensure sustainable financing for the agency that provides services to 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
In the past the US has been the largest single contributor to UNRWA’s annual $1.2 billion budget, pledging In the last few years $364,265,585 annually. The EU is the second largest contributor with a pledge in 2017 of $143,137,340 in 2017.
But US President Donald Trump has this year given UNRWA only $60 million so far and has withheld another $65m. in funding.
The EU parliamentarians urged Trump to reconsider his decision and asked Arab states, most of whom are not large contributors to UNRWA, to give more funds to the organization.
The resolution also called on UNRWA to enhance transparency and accountability “to ensure timely and accurate program.”
UNRWA should ensure that its “facilities are not misused” and “investigate allegations of neutrality violations by its staff members,” the resolution stated.
At a parliamentary debate on Tuesday about UNRWA, an EU commissioner Johannes Hahn warned that “the EU will not be able to compensate for substantial US cuts, given the pressure on available funds.”
Hahn is the commissioner of the European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiation.
“We can and will actively assist UNRWA in reaching out to non-traditional donors in order to help the agency to broaden its donor base and, given the magnitude of the problem, we also need to work with host governments on how they might consider providing certain services that UNRWA cannot and maybe should not provide,” Hahn said.
“The EU and its Member States are by far the largest provider of assistance to Palestinian refugees – they provide around €460m. a year,” Hahn said.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the parliamentarians that “supporting UNRWA is a humanitarian duty and it is also in our collective interest for peace and security in the Middle East.”
The bulk of UNRWA budget, some $1 billion, is based contribution from only 20 of the UN’s 193 member states.
Aside from the US, this includes the EU and 11 of its member states including Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.