At a conference hosted by Sweden, Egypt and Jordan on Thursday (15 March), the international donor community is to discuss long term financial perspectives for UNRWA. More than 90 percent of the Agency’s work is financed by voluntary pledges by donors. A lack of pledges or pledges which are not carried through lead time and again to dramatic shortfalls meaning UNRWA is unable to perform some of its important tasks. The negative impact is felt immediately by the people affected when, for example, schools remain closed or health facilities reduce the services they provide. For 2018 alone, current figures suggest a shortfall of more than 530 million US dollars in the UNRWA budget.
What does UNRWA do?
An anchor of stability in a region rocked time and again by crises – that is UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and neighbouring countries. UNRWA is one of the United Nations’ largest and oldest programmes. Since 1949, UNRWA has been charged by the UN General Assembly to assist Palestine refugees in the Near East. This mandate currently takes in some 5.3 million people.
The organisation has many years of experience in the region and often retains access to those in need at a time when other aid organisations have had to cease their activities for security reasons. Additional tasks have evolved as a result of the conflict in Syria. Alongside Syrian refugees, Palestine refugees living in Syria have also been forced to flee. The projects UNRWA runs focus on education, health and infrastructure. Yet given spiralling food prices paired with ongoing high unemployment and widespread poverty, particularly in the Gaza Strip, classic food aid remains necessary.
Germany is one of UNRWA’s long standing, reliable donors and underpins its financial commitment with political support. In 2017 alone, Germany made available more than 78.5 million euros (42 million euros from the Federal Foreign Office for humanitarian assistance such as food aid, 36.5 million euros from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development for projects involving, for example, infrastructure and reconstruction.
This means UNRWA can provide food packages for almost 400,000 people in need in Gaza in the period from May 2016 to June 2018. Also within the EU, the Federal Government is working to ensure the organisation benefits from reform and long term funding. At the same time, as a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission, Germany encourages other donors to stabilise and increase their financial commitment to put UNRWA on a firm and sustainable footing.