The U.N.’s Palestinian Refugee Agency: What It Does and Why It Matters


The United Nations company that assists Palestinians who’re labeled as refugees has acquired greater than $6 billion in American funding since its creation almost seven a long time in the past, making the USA the company’s single most vital donor.

However over the previous 12 months, the Trump administration has made it more and more clear that it regards the company as a part of the issue in resolving the protracted Israeli-Palestinian battle. Starting in January, the administration decreased funding for the company, which in some methods capabilities as a quasi authorities. The cuts threw the company into its worst monetary disaster.

On Friday, the administration stated it will cease all funding for the company, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation.” The disruption might additional upend the lives of roughly 5.four million Palestinians who depend on the company’s providers in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Financial institution.

Listed below are questions and solutions in regards to the company, formally referred to as the United Nations Reduction and Works Company for Palestine Refugees within the Close to East, or Unrwa for brief:

What does Unrwa do?

Initially supposed as a short lived aid supplier, Unrwa was established in 1949 to help greater than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or have been expelled from their properties in the course of the Arab-Israeli warfare of 1948. Its operations are virtually totally funded by voluntary contributions from United Nations member states.

Unrwa has drastically expanded through the years and now runs faculties for greater than a half-million kids. It additionally offers well being care, meals, jobs, emergency loans, housing help and different providers to Palestinian refugees.

What are the dangers if Unrwa can not function?

Many diplomats and political consultants say the funding disruption to Unrwa is harmful, injecting new instability into the Center East at a time when tensions are already rising between Israel and its neighbors, notably in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave of two million, the place Unrwa is a crucial lifeline for roughly half the inhabitants. Even Israeli officers, who’ve lengthy held a blended view of Unrwa, are nervous as a result of Israel’s protection institution has lengthy warned that sudden cuts to Unrwa funding could possibly be destabilizing.

Why has the Palestinian refugee inhabitants multiplied?

This query is a supply of longstanding dispute. The descendants of the unique refugees are additionally considered refugees beneath Unrwa’s mandate, which obliges the company to offer providers “till there’s a simply and lasting answer to the political state of affairs,” stated Peter Mulrean, director of Unrwa’s New York workplace. This implies Unrwa has now served 4 generations of Palestinians.

The company additionally doesn’t essentially take away Palestinians who’ve acquired citizenship in a brand new nation from the checklist of registered refugees, additional swelling the inhabitants.

Why is that this considered such an issue?

The passing of refugee standing from mother and father to kids is seen by Israel as one motive resolving the Palestinian battle is so tough. Refugees have the suitable of return to their homeland, which on this case contains areas that are actually a part of Israel. The prospect that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians might sometime resettle in Israel is seen by many Israelis and their supporters as unimaginable.

Critics of Unrwa additionally contend that it has advanced right into a sprawling welfare paperwork that perpetuates a tradition of dependency among the many Palestinian inhabitants, making the refugee drawback much more insurmountable. Unrwa officers reply that they’re adhering to the company’s mandate of serving to refugees till a everlasting answer is reached.

These will not be new points. What modified when President Trump took workplace?

The Trump administration indicated early that it will be way more sympathetic to Israel’s facet of the battle than the administration of President Barack Obama. Inside his first 12 months in workplace, President Trump introduced that he was transferring the USA Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the contested holy metropolis that the Palestinians additionally need for his or her capital in a future unbiased state. The motion infuriated Palestinian leaders, who stated the USA had forfeited its position in serving to to barter any peace settlement.

Mr. Trump and his aides, angered by the Palestinian response and by what they considered as ingratitude for American largess, started signaling that they would cut back monetary help. Administration officers, led by the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, complained that different international locations ought to contribute extra to Unrwa. In January, the administration withheld greater than half of a scheduled $120 million cost and left future funds for fiscal 2018 doubtful.

Unrwa officers, caught unexpectedly, stated they’d been led to imagine that the USA would supply the identical funding because the roughly $360 million offered in fiscal 12 months 2017. Abruptly they confronted an infinite deficit in Unrwa’s $1.25 billion price range.

How did Unrwa reply?

Pierre Krähenbühl, the commissioner normal of Unrwa, warned that with out emergency infusions from different international locations or an easing of the American place, the company can be compelled to drastically minimize providers, together with education. He started an pressing fund-raising marketing campaign.

Donations from European and Arab nations helped elevate $238 million. However final month Unrwa minimize greater than 260 jobs and decreased psychological well being providers in an austerity transfer, and stated that the college 12 months could be delayed.

On Aug. 16, Mr. Krähenbühl introduced that Unrwa faculties would open on time, however he stated the company nonetheless confronted a $217 million shortfall that would shut down faculties and different providers earlier than the top of the 12 months.

What is going to occur if the USA doesn’t restore Unrwa funding?

On Friday, the Jordanian overseas minister, Ayman Safadi, stated his nation would host a fund-raising occasion for Unrwa on the United Nations headquarters in the course of the Basic Meeting session subsequent month. At a gathering with Mr. Krähenbühl, Mr. Safadi stated the occasion’s intention was to “shut the hole and put in place a plan that can guarantee Unrwa’s continued, ongoing funding for the approaching years.”

The German overseas minister, Heiko Maas, stated his authorities had pledged to considerably enhance its future contributions, from roughly $94 million this 12 months to an unspecified bigger quantity, Reuters reported Friday. It quoted him as saying that “the lack of this group might unleash an uncontrollable chain response.”

Edward Wong and David M. Halbfinger contributed reporting.


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