UN envoy to Gaza calls out Western government ‘double standards’ over UNRWA funding

By Roger McKenzie  

A United Nations envoy to Gaza today called out the “double standards” of governments that have suspended funds to the world body’s agency for Palestinian refugees.

About a dozen mostly global North countries have suspended funding to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), even though an investigation has yet to be completed into an allegation that 12 former staff members (of about 30,000) took part in the October 7 attacks on Israel.

UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese said that while the governments have suspended aid “the same governments have not suspended ties with the state whose army has killed 26,000 people in Gaza in 3.5 months, though the [International Court of Justice] said it may plausibly constitute genocide.”

She said: “Double standards? Yes, big time.”

UNRWA spokesperson Tamara Alrifai told Al Jazeera that while the agency had sacked nine of 12 accused employees the move was made “pre-emptively” while investigations were under way.

She said that they now had “the right of recourse in case the findings are in their favour.”

Meanwhile, an array of UN organizations warned today of the “catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza” if key donor countries don’t resume funding for UNRWA.

The heads of the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, Unicef, International Organization for Migration and other agencies and partners said the allegations were “horrifying.”

“However, we must not prevent an entire organization from delivering on its mandate to serve people in desperate need,” the joint statement said.

“No other entity has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of assistance that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need.”

UN officials have warned that UNRWA will have to halt operations by the end of February if funding is not restored.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres appealed to 35 donor nations in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday and sought new support as well.

During a UN briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, UN humanitarian spokesperson Jens Laerke said UNRWA is “irreplaceable in the humanitarian operation.”

Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said it was “telling” that UN bodies and non-governmental organizations agree that defunding UNRWA “means a collapse of humanitarian work among Palestinian women and children in their hour of greatest need – when they’re under this relentless, indiscriminate bombardment and when there is so little capacity for humanitarian relief.”

More than 26,751 Palestinians have been killed during the brutal Israeli retaliation.

Morning Star (UK)

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