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The UNRWA crisis has both repercussions and solutions

9 14 22
10.08.2018

Since its establishment in 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been ready to explode at any given moment because of its connection to political, legal and humanitarian factors surrounding the Palestinian cause. The political situation has paved the way for it to play the role of a “political pressure card”, not least because it directly affects the lives of the refugees of the most complicated issue in contemporary history.

The agency was established under UN General Assembly Resolution 302, which is associated with Resolution 194, passed a year earlier, regarding the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their land. The latter added a political dimension to the decision to establish UNRWA, particularly in terms of a positive contribution to the return of the refugees to their homes from which they were forcibly displaced — some have called this “ethnic cleansing” — by the creation of Israel.

Among the recommendations of the UN General Assembly was to mandate UNRWA to support the refugees until a permanent solution to their cause was found. This support includes aid programmes in education and health; employment opportunities; and relief programmes and social services.

Read: The plan to end UNRWA will not take away Palestinians’ right of return

With regards to political and legal affairs, the General Assembly periodically addresses the issue of Palestinian refugees as an agenda item. Furthermore, it frequently reiterates and recognises the “refugees’ inalienable right of return to their homes and compensation for their lost property as a result of occupation and displacement.” However, the lack of any international will to oblige the occupying State of Israel to implement the terms of UN resolutions means that this is still an outstanding issue waiting to be resolved. This is despite the fact that Israel’s own membership of the UN was and remains conditional upon the refugees being allowed to return to their homes.

The conditions under which the agency was established and its limitations due to its funding being almost entirely dependent on voluntary donations from UN member states, the bulk of which come from the US and Europe, followed by Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, makes it easier to understand the current reductions in UNRWA’s services to the refugees. Donations can be — and look as if they are — withheld for political reasons, which makes life even more difficult for the millions of Palestinian refugees who depend on UNRWA in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The UN not only considers and then issues resolutions, but also looks at the mechanisms necessary for their implementation except, it seems, when those decisions are in favour of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights, including their right of return. This is not because of Israel’s military hegemony in the Middle East. Far more important is the fact that its main benefactor and protector, the US, is also the main state pulling the strings at the UN, where it wields an undue degree of influence. America and its allies are the real guarantors of Israel’s continued existence, colonial expansion and........

© Middle East Monitor