“It is deeply shocking – indeed inhumane – that several governments have taken decisions that will cause further suffering to two million Palestinians, who are already facing the risk of genocide and an engineered famine just days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling concluded that the survival of Palestinians in Gaza is at risk. It is particularly appalling that such action has been taken over allegations concerning 12 employees out of UNRWA’s entire staff of 30,000,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. The allegations over the involvement of UNRWA staff in the October 7 attacks are serious and must be independently investigated; anyone against whom there is sufficient admissible evidence should be prosecuted in fair trials. But the alleged actions of a few individuals must not be used as a pretext for cutting off life-saving assistance in what could amount to collective punishment.”
The UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, Finland, USA, Australia, and Canada are among the states that have paused funding to the aid agency. Together, they provided more than half of UNRWA’s budget in 2022. The decision follows allegations that 12 UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 attacks in Israel carried out by Hamas. UNRWA immediately dismissed nine employees over the allegations and has launched an investigation.
At a time when Israel, the occupying power, continues to flagrantly violate its obligations vis-à-vis Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, UNRWA has long served as a sole lifeline, offering indispensable humanitarian aid, education and shelter. The agency also provides desperately needed aid for millions of other Palestinian refugees living in neighboring Arab countries.
Norway, Spain, Ireland and Belgium are among states that have announced they will not suspend funding, recognizing the vital role that UNRWA continues to play in the distribution of humanitarian aid to those in desperate need.
“It is disgraceful that instead of heeding the ICJ’s ruling, and the court’s finding that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further, key states, including the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia, and France have cut off funding to the main provider of aid for civilians in Gaza,” said Callamard.
“All states have a clear duty to ensure the ICJ measures are implemented, including those ordering Israel to take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza as a key step to preventing genocide and further irreparable harm,” Callamard continued. “Some of the very governments that announced they will cut off funds to UNRWA over these allegations have, in the meantime, continued to arm Israeli forces despite overwhelming evidence that these arms are used to commit war crimes and serious human rights violations. Rushing to freeze funds for humanitarian aid, based on allegations that are still being investigated, while refusing to even consider suspending support for the Israeli military is a stark example of double standards.”
“Instead of suspending vital funding to those in need states should be working to halt arms transfers to Israel and Palestinian armed groups and pushing for an immediate and sustained ceasefire and full humanitarian access to help alleviate devastating suffering,” continued Callamard.
The state of Israel and right-wing groups have for years led a smear campaign against UNRWA, which plays a key role in protecting Palestinians’ right of return to their lands.
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Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed France and Switzerland as among the countries who have suspended funding to UNRWA. In fact, France and Switzerland (along with Denmark, Poland, the EU and New Zealand) have announced they will wait for the result of the UN investigation to take a decision on suspending funding to UNRWA.
As of 31 January 2024 , 15 states had announced the suspension of funding to UNRWA. These are: Austria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, USA, Iceland, UK, Japan and Australia.