RAMALLAH: Palestinians are deeply concerned by statements by the UNRWA Commissioner General that the organization will delegate its humanitarian services for 5 million Palestinian refugees living in 58 refugee camps to other organizations to overcome its severe financial crisis, Palestinian sources confirmed to Arab News on Sunday.
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said in a letter to Palestinian refugees dated April 23: “This year, a very harsh winter and the impact of the war in Ukraine on food and fuel prices in the area add to the daily difficulties you face. I witnessed this a few days ago when I met Palestinian refugees at Khan Danoun camp and Yarmouk in Syria. Many refugees have told me of their struggle to meet their basic needs and how the socio-economic situation forces them to return to live among the rubble in Yarmouk.
He pointed to the economic hardships faced by Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan and Lebanon, due to the unstable security and economic situations in those countries.
“The painful reality is that over the past ten years, and despite immense advocacy and fundraising efforts, the resources available to UNRWA have stagnated, while the needs of Palestinian refugees and the cost of operations keep increasing,” Lazzarini said. “UNRWA’s now chronic underfunding is the result of a combination of shifting geopolitical priorities, new regional dynamics and the emergence of new humanitarian crises compounded by donor fatigue with one of the longest unresolved conflicts in the world. All of this has led to a sharp deprioritization of the Palestinian issue, including more recently among some donors in the Arab region.
The international organization has provided its services to 7 million Palestinian refugees living in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon since 1948, with a noticeable reduction in quality and the quantity of these services.
“UNRWA is also increasingly exposed to the domestic politics of some of its traditional donor countries. Campaigns coordinated by organizations that aim to delegitimize and defund the Agency and erode the rights of Palestinian refugees have increased in frequency and aggressiveness,” the letter states.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner General of UNRWA recently visited several countries to recruit financial resources to enable UNRWA to continue providing its services to Palestinian refugees, but no information regarding the results of his tour. .
The sixth international conference on Syria will be organized in early May in Brussels to discuss the issue of Palestinian refugees in Syria and their return to the demolished houses of the Yarmouk refugee camp. In June, the Advisory Commission on UNRWA brings together its major donors and hosts in Lebanon to discuss fundraising for the UN agency.
The Palestinians view with concern any measure that affects the status and role of UNRWA, transforming the question of Palestinian refugees into one of relief services, health and education and ignoring its political dimension linked to the right of refugees to return to their homes from which they were displaced, with compensation.
The Joint Refugee Committee called on the UNRWA Commissioner-General to seek creative and innovative ideas on recruiting financial support to fund services and not seek ideas that overlap with US and Israeli proposals that call to the phasing out of UNRWA.
The PLO’s Department of Refugee Affairs flatly rejected the ideas contained in the letter. He said in a press release on Sunday: “We express our shock at what was stated in the letter from the Commissioner General of UNRWA regarding his agreement to transfer some of the powers of UNRWA to other international organizations to exercise them on its behalf, as one of the options presented to ensure the continuity of its services to the Palestinian refugees without risk of interruption due to the lack of financial resources of UNRWA.
The head of the PLO’s refugee affairs department, Ahmed Abu Holy, said that “it is not within the purview of the commissioner-general of UNRWA to propose solutions to address the financial shortfall in the budget of the UNRWA. UNRWA which affects the working mandate of UNRWA, and it does not have the mandate to transfer the powers of UNRWA to other international organizations under the slogans of partnerships and synergy with UNRWA, whose words The order carries in its secret political dimensions the liquidation of UNRWA and the transfer of its powers to international organizations and the governments of the host countries. ”
He said the Palestinian leadership was consulting with all relevant parties, including UNRWA, donor countries and members of the Advisory Committee, looking for innovative models to increase UNRWA’s financial resources by finding new donors. funds, by urging traditional donors to increase their funding and by communicating with international organizations such as the World Bank and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and not by transferring the powers of UNRWA to other international organizations.
He said the Commissioner-General’s proposed solutions could not be justified, knowing that it would provoke negative reactions from Palestinian refugees, UNRWA staff and host countries.
He called on the UN to allocate an independent budget to UNRWA, similar to other UN agencies, to ensure the continuation of its relief and operational services to Palestinian refugees until a just solution is found. found.
The commissioner-general’s letter arrived three weeks before the Palestinian commemoration of the Nakba, the Palestinian disaster, on May 15.