Allegations regarding the involvement of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) staff in the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel are grave and must be properly investigated by the UN and independently. However, the critical nature of the Agency’s operations in the region and its urgent need for sustained financial support must also be recognised.
Delivering essential aid to Palestine refugees is crucial, and UNRWA’s role is critical in the present context. As underscored by UN Secretary-General and Club de Madrid Member António Guterres, the suspension of funds to UNRWA poses a significant threat to the provision of vital services to these refugees, including emergency humanitarian relief, healthcare, and education. But this suspension of resources threatens to intensify the already serious humanitarian situation in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and the West Bank, where UNRWA is also actively engaged.
Gaza, home to more than 1.5 million Palestine refugees, is currently facing unparalleled hardship. The majority of its population relies on UNRWA for basic necessities, including food and medical supplies. The ongoing conflict has had devastating human consequences, and services provided by UNRWA are more critical than ever. The grave nature of the current situation is further underscored by the ongoing proceedings of the International Court of Justice related to the allegations of genocide affecting the Palestinian people.
We acknowledge the concerns regarding the alleged involvement of a dozen UNRWA staff in activities adverse to the Agency’s mandate and its more than 13,000 staff in Gaza. However, it is imperative that responses to these allegations target the individuals concerned rather than punishing the entire refugee population in the region. The immediate suspension of funding across the board constitutes a form of collective punishment. It is essential to distinguish between the actions of a few individuals and the overarching mission of the agency. UNRWA has already initiated a thorough investigation into these allegations and taken measures to address the situation, including the dismissal of staff implicated in these activities. These actions demonstrate the agency’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
While the concerns of donor countries are legitimate and must be addressed, it is equally important to balance these concerns with the urgent humanitarian needs of millions of Palestine refugees. The suspension of funding to UNRWA does not solely impact an organisation but the lives of countless individuals who depend on its assistance for survival. In alignment with the appeal of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, we strongly urge those Member States involved to reconsider their decision and resume funding to UNRWA immediately, thereby ensuring that humanitarian assistance continues to reach those who need it most.