Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Reduction and Works Company, made a pitch to diplomats from key donor states to assist fund its new $1.6 billion funds request this yr — cash which can first must go to mop up a multimillion-dollar deficit.
“For the fourth consecutive year, we are ending (2022) with a large deficit of about $70 million,” he advised reporters, lamenting that the company has no extra reliability and predictability of funding.
Lazzarini voiced considerations about elevated rigidity, volatility, uncertainty and violence within the area “at a time the agency is struggling to keep afloat its own activities.”
He warned that if the UNRWA doesn’t obtain sufficient funding, “we might at one point reach a tipping point” and face a suspension of its actions in “such a volatile region” and “where people are so desperate.”
The UNRWA was based within the wake of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 to serve lots of of hundreds of Palestinians who fled or have been pressured from their properties. Right this moment, their numbers have grown to some 5.9 million folks, most within the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution and Gaza Strip, and neighboring international locations within the Center East. The company offers social companies, schooling and jobs to many.
Israel has objected to UNRWA’s faculty curriculum, claiming it promotes anti-Israel incitement, and has known as for reforms within the group. However it tolerates the company, partly as a result of it offers companies that Israeli authorities don’t or gained’t present.
Lazzarini stated some conventional massive donor international locations — he cited Britain by identify — lately decreased their abroad help budgets, which “has severely impacted the organization.” He stated the battle in Ukraine had additionally diverted public consideration away from the wants within the Center East.
He reserved his largest attraction for well-heeled Gulf states, which noticed a windfall final yr with hovering power costs and excessive demand for oil and gasoline after key producer Russia invaded Ukraine. He stated he couldn’t clarify why their funding for UNRWA had fallen in recent times.
“I do not have the response, but I have observed a few trends in the region. The first one? Indeed, the Arab contribution in 2018 represented about 25% of the overall contribution to the agency,” he stated. “In 2021, it was less than 3%, and last year it was 4%.”
Lazzarini credited a few of that assist to Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
However some Gulf states decreased “their engagement” with UNRWA whilst they continued to sympathize with “the plight of the Palestinian refugees” with statements of political assist for Palestinians in U.N. our bodies. That assist hasn’t “necessarily been translated into contribution to UNRWA” in recent times, he stated.
“I’m really engaged with the member states of the region, and I really hope that they will come back as a strategic partner,” Lazzarini stated.
Lazzarini famous a “new political dynamic” within the area, at a time when Israel has struck a collection of diplomatic agreements with Arab international locations, together with the Gulf nations Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, often called the Abraham Accords.
“There should be absolutely no contradiction by being part of the Abraham Accords, having a rapprochement, and to continue to support the agency and Palestinian refugees,” Lazzarini stated.
In 2018, underneath former President Donald Trump, the USA, historically certainly one of UNRWA’s largest donors, suspended its assist for the company. The Biden administration has resumed funding and final yr pitched in $340 million, making the U.S. the largest donor.
Related Press author Joe Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.