UNRWA provides vital services to 5.5 million Palestine refugees.
As a probe into mismanagement allegations by the Palestine refugee agency UNRWA has been underway, UNRWA delegates continue to underscore the need for the agency’s crucial services for millions of Palestine refugees.
A Monday statement figuring on the UN website said UNRWA’s Officer in Charge, Christian Saunders, told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) that the agency is working to address management issues and continues to provide vital services despite facing a funding crisis.
As the Committee began its deliberation on the Agency’s work, Christian Saunders said that under the current circumstances and following the unforeseen resignation of UNRWA’s chief, its priorities are “ensuring the continuity of operations” for Palestine refugees.
The UN official said the Agency has been reviewing ways in which to be more effective and efficient, noting that the financial situation is even more critical than it was in 2018, with a funding gap of $89 million.
Saunders also warned of the difficult extremely conditions under which Palestine refugees displaced from Syria continue to live in Lebanon.
The observer for the State of Palestine pointed out that the investigation found no fraud, corruption or misuse of funds.
“The alleged misconduct did not impair UNRWA’s operations, and the management plan announced by the Secretary-General to address oversights in accountability also ensure continuity”, she said.
She went on to warn that the refugees’ resilience is becoming more strained amid the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, rampant poverty, violent conflict, repeated displacement and widespread instability.
Israel’s representative, however, said that supporting the Agency is a misuse of international funds. UNRWA is “corrupted and ineffective” and the recent scandal is just the tip of the iceberg, she added.
Questioning whether corruption is limited to the Agency’s leadership or if, in fact, it has sullied UNRWA’s broader activities, she called for a close examination of its activities to determine how it spends funds.
She called for an end to UNRWA’s mandate, the gradual reorganization of its humanitarian services and for better channels to finance humanitarian aid “without financing politics and corruption”.
Jordan’s representative warned that depriving Palestine refugees of dignity will have dire consequences throughout the region, warning that the loss of UNRWA’s services will further deepen their despair and leave them vulnerable to ignorance and extremist ideologies.
Syria’s representative also rejected any proposed decrease in UNRWA’s social services, emphasizing that any such reduction would be tantamount to a violation of United Nations resolutions.
Lebanon’s representative similarly warned of the consequences that might unfold if the Agency’s support is withdrawn, stressing that any deficiency in education means a death sentence for generations to come.
Egypt’s representative observed that some countries remain indifferent to the sacrifices UNRWA has made, questioning the Agency’s credibility and calling for its closure. Since the preliminary investigative report reveals no misuse or abuse of funds, Member States should extend UNRWA’s mandate and resume aid as soon as possible, he stressed.
Also speaking today were representatives of Azerbaijan (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Qatar, Kuwait, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Namibia, Cuba, Syria, Nigeria, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, India, Turkey, China, Senegal, Iraq, Norway, Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan, Malaysia, Luxembourg, Russian Federation, Mexico, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Sudan and Algeria.
Observers for the European Union, the Holy See and the League of Arab States also delivered statements.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were a representative of Israel and an observer for the State of Palestine.
The Fourth Committee is slated to reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 13 November, to begin its general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.