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)
An international donor conference was slated to take place on Thursday to assist the UN Relief and Works Agency in overcoming a substantial funding shortfall.
Representatives of some 60 countries, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will convene behind closed doors in Rome to raise funds for the UN body, a diplomatic source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in a phone call on Wednesday.
UNRWA provides health, education, social welfare and other services to millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
The donor conference was scheduled to take place some after the US State Department recently announced that it would withhold $110 million of planned contributions to the UN Agency.
“UNRWA needs countries to make new donations to it to cover its expenses this year,” the diplomatic source said. “I hope the conference will bring new money into the organization.”
The US has long been the largest donor to UNRWA, providing funds for a major portion of its budget. For example, the US provided $364m. to UNRWA in 2017.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the budget deficit for 2018 is $446m.
According to Gunness, the figure assumes that the US will not provide any more money to UNRWA for the rest of the year.
“As far as we are concerned, the US has withheld $300m. for 2018. We have been led to believe that we will not receive any additional funding from the US this year,” he said in a phone call.
The State Department has not said US President Donald Trump’s administration plans to withhold more than $110m. in 2018.
However, in Davos in January, Trump said the US would only deliver American aid money for the benefit of Palestinians if the amallah-based Palestinian leadership returns to the peace negotiations table with Israel.