Experts Warn Ending Support For UNRWA Poses A Major Challenge To UN Authority

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After the United States, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Finland, Australia, and the Netherlands made announcements regarding the suspension of financial aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Germany has now joined in making a similar announcement.

Experts suggest that the humanitarian challenges arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in terms of refugee relief, are expected to intensify. This development raises questions about the potential impact on the authority of the United Nations (UN) as the crisis unfolds.

A minimum of eight nations have temporarily halted forthcoming financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Near East. This action comes during an inquiry into accusations that certain employees of the UN agency were involved in the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel.

A high-ranking Palestinian official called on nations that have declared the suspension of their backing for UNRWA to reassess their decisions to mitigate potential political and humanitarian repercussions, as reported by the Xinhua News Agency.

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General expressed concern that the funding halt from countries contributing a significant portion of its budget would further worsen the humanitarian crisis in the region, exacerbated by the disruption of fuel and supply channels.

Lazzarini conveyed that the suspension of funds to the Agency in response to allegations against a small group of staff was surprising, particularly considering the swift action taken by UNRWA to terminate their contracts and request a transparent independent investigation.

According to Chinese experts, UNRWA has faced substantial challenges in its operations since the onset of the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, highlighted that the organization’s struggles with funding, security, and personnel issues are expected to intensify the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and exacerbate living challenges in the West Bank.

Liu further emphasized that humanitarian concerns, particularly those related to refugee relief, are expected to grow in complexity, presenting an even more formidable challenge to the authority of the UN.

In response to Israel’s allegations, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has committed to undertaking an immediate and thorough independent review of UNRWA.

Established in 1949 as a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, the UNRWA is dedicated to facilitating the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees. Its mission involves providing humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestinian refugees within the agency’s operational areas until a fair and enduring resolution to their situation is realized.

As of October 7, 2023, at least 26,422 Palestinians have lost their lives, and above 5,000 individuals have been injured in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, according to a statement from the Gaza health ministry, reported by Reuters.

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