What is UNRWA? How is UNRWA funded?

What is the UNRWA?

What is the UNRWA?

Israel has claimed that a dozen UNRWA personnel were implicated in the October 7 assault by Hamas. Numerous Western nations have ceased their financial support. Here is essential information regarding the United Nations agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that provides assistance and support to Palestinian refugees. In 1949, it established to address the needs of Palestinians displaced during the Arab-Israeli conflict.

UNRWA’s primary focus is on providing education, healthcare, social services, and emergency relief to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The agency plays a crucial role in actively supporting the basic needs and rights of Palestinian refugees, especially in areas with limited access to essential services.

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Why was the UNRWA created?

The establishment of the UNRWA took place in 1949, shortly after the commencement of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and it commenced its operations in May 1950.

The United Nations created this agency to assist over 700,000 Palestinians who were displaced or compelled to leave their homes before and during the 1948 war.

UNRWA vital: Provides education, healthcare, and welfare to 6 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank, and Gaza.

Education constitutes half of the agency’s budget, with UNRWA managing a network of over 700 schools. May press release highlights UNRWA as the only UN agency with a comprehensive school system.

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How is UNRWA funded?

UNRWA’s funding primarily relies on voluntary donations from member states of the United Nations. In 2022, donors pledged $1.17 billion (€1.1 billion), with EU member states contributing about half of the total amount.

In January 2023, the agency requested an increase in its budget to approximately $1.6 billion. As of May 2023, pledges accounted for only 25% of the total, approximately $364 million.

UNRWA has faced financial challenges for the past decade and has operated with a deficit since its establishment. At the beginning of 2023, it had accumulated a debt of $75 million.

One of the contributing factors to this financial strain is the continuous growth of the Palestinian refugee population. International law allows descendants of refugees to claim refugee status, increasing the number requiring assistance, as per UNRWA guidelines.

In 2018, the U.S., a major contributor, cut funding to the agency on former President Donald Trump’s directive. Trump held a critical stance towards the United Nations as a whole, including the UNRWA. However, the United States has since resumed its funding. Currently, the US is the largest donor to the agency, followed by Germany, the European Union, and Sweden.

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Why is UNRWA controversial?

Controversy around UNRWA: Criticized by Trump, Israeli leaders, and Netanyahu for its definition of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees as those in Palestine between June 1, 1946, and May 11, 1948, displaced by the 1948 conflict. The agency also includes the descendants of male Palestinian refugees, including adopted children, in its eligibility criteria.

Netanyahu calls UNRWA a “refugee perpetuation agency,” advocates dissolution. The UN shouldn’t bear responsibility for Palestinian refugee assistance. UNRWA asserts that if closed, recognized refugees retain rights under UN Resolution 194 until a just and lasting solution.

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