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November 19, 2019
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UN agency for Palestinians UNRWA opposes US call to close it down

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian has rejected the US envoy to the United Nations call to dismantle the agency.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, the commissioner general of UNRWA, said it should not be singled out over stalled peace efforts in the Middle East.

Earlier, the US envoy to the UN has called for handing over the responsibility to deal with Palestinian refugees to host countries. Washington cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees last year.

“I unreservedly reject the accompanying narrative that suggests that somehow UNRWA is to blame for the continuation of the refugee-hood of Palestine refugees, of their growing numbers and their growing needs,” Krahenbuhl said at a Gaza news conference on Thursday.

Speaking to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, US envoy Jason Greenblatt said the “UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people,” and that it was time to hand over the responsibility for Palestinian refugees to host countries in the region.

“We need to engage with host governments to start a conversation about planning the transition of UNRWA services to host governments, or to other international or local nongovernmental organizations, as appropriate,” Greenblatt said after UNRWA’s Krahenbuhl briefed the Security Council about the agency’s efforts.

Greenblatt said that the US had donated $6 billion (€5.38 billion) to UNRWA since it was established in 1949 “and yet year after year UNRWA funding fell short.”

The US is the largest donor to UNRWA, providing about 30% of its budget. In 2017, Washington gave about $355 million to UNRWA, but the Trump administration slashed its contribution in 2018, providing only $60 million.