Netherlands resumes funding UNRWA despite alleged abuses

“We welcome the decision by the Netherlands to unlock funds that will help UNRWA at an exceptionally challenging period of its existence,” said Marc Lassouaoui, chief of donor relations.

Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts by UNRWA, in Gaza City September 19, 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts by UNRWA, in Gaza City September 19, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
The Netherlands will resume funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA), according to a release shared by the organization.
In July, the Netherlands had temporarily suspended a planned contribution of €13 million as a result of an investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight Services into management-related issues at UNRWA. That investigation led UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krähenbühl to resign. The report alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority among senior officials of the agency.
“We welcome the decision by the Netherlands to unlock funds that will help UNRWA at an exceptionally challenging period of its existence,” said Marc Lassouaoui, chief of donor relations in UNRWA’s Department of External Relations and Communications. “The amount that we will receive will help the agency continue to provide critical humanitarian services and operations for the remainder of 2019 in the areas of primary health care, education and social services across its five fields of operations.”
According to the release, the multiyear agreement between the Netherlands and UNRWA covers the period 2019 to 2021 and foresees a non-earmarked annual contribution of €13m. to support the agency’s program budget.
In addition, the Netherlands agreed to provide a further €6m. for 2019, bringing the total amount of Dutch funding to UNRWA’s core budget in 2019 to €19m.
Wouter van de Staaij, spokesperson for the Netherlands Embassy in Tel Aviv, explained to the The Jerusalem Post that while the Netherlands chose to suspend UNRWA’s funding because of indications of its mismanagement, since then, the United Nations has conducted an independent investigation into its runnings.
“At the end of November, there was a presentation of a new reform plan [for UNRWA], including a concrete monitoring agreement, and based on this plan, we trust the steps will help restore confidence in UNRWA,” Staaij said.
He added that “We consider UNRWA’s work to be essential. It provides basic services to millions of Palestinian refugees and those services contribute to the stability in the region and also benefit Israel.”
Over the summer, Belgium and Switzerland likewise temporarily suspended their funding to UNRWA. Neither country has announced a decision to resume payment to date.
In August 2018, the US announced it would cut all funding to the organization. Until then, the US had been its top donor, with an annual contribution of $360m.
Last month, despite the ethical probe, the UN voted to extend UNRWA’s mandate until 2023. UNRWA’s mandate is renewed every three years in two stages. The second stage of the approval is expected to occur on Friday at the UN General Assembly.
Several Israeli politicians and right-wing activists have long voiced concerns over UNRWA’s work as a humanitarian organization. In September, a report by IMPACT-se – a research institute based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – found that Palestinian schoolchildren are exposed to a dramatic amount of incitement and intolerance against Jews and Israel in UNRWA schools in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
Earlier this month, former mayor of Jerusalem and Likud MK Nir Barkat proposed a bill calling for the end of UNRWA services for Israel’s Arab residents by January 1 and ending UNRWA’s involvement in some of Jerusalem’s Arab educational institutions by the end of June 2020. Barkat said that “UNRWA explicitly encourages incitement against Israel and attacking our citizens,” and further said that “UNRWA facilities are also known to be terrorist bases in Gaza that store missiles used against Israeli civilians.”