U.S. Stops Funding UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees

The White House has announced that it would end all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, on the basis of irredeemable flaws in the body’s operations.

The U.S. described the agency’s approach to handling the issue as “unsustainable” and the country’s contribution as disproportionate. The United States is the biggest donor to the UN agency which in 2017 alone received over $350 million from the country, CNN reports.

According to the State Department its installment of $60 million allocated in January to the UNRWA, as the body is known, was its last financial contribution to the organization, which provides healthcare, education, and social services to millions of Palestinians across the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

“The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation,” the State Department said. The U.S. would no longer “shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs,” it stressed on Friday, outlining the reason for its move.

At the same time, the department called on other countries to increase the amounts they contributed to the agency. Back in January, the U.S. withheld part of an installment saying that it expected UNRWA to reform.

On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said some countries “including Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Qatar, and the UAE have shown leadership in addressing this problem, but the overall international response has not been sufficient.”

The decision to stop funding was met with disappointment within the agency. Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, expressed “deep regret” over it and pushed back against criticism of UNRWA’s work.

“We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA’s schools, health centers, and emergency assistance programs are ‘irredeemably flawed’,” he said.

“These very programs have a proven track record in creating one of the most successful human development processes and results in the Middle East. The international state community, our donors and host countries have consistently praised UNRWA for its achievements and standards,” Gunness added.

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