Greater Canadian Funding to UNRWA for Palestinian Refugees

The UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) was created in 1949 to accommodate the 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes by Israel between 1947 and 1949. In the absence of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, generations of Palestinian refugees have been born stateless and still live their lives in limbo today. UNRWA currently serves over 5.4 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East. UNRWA’s budget of $1.2 billion goes to running schools (54%), health services (17%), and social and support services (25%). In 2018, the Trump administration ended its support for UNRWA which had historically accounted for about 1/3 of UNRWA’s budget. As the gavel-holder for the Refugee Working Group, Canada should work with its allies to initiate practical discussions about long- and short-term solutions for Palestinian refugees.

Overview

The UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) was created in 1949 to accommodate the 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes by Israel between 1947 and 1949. In the absence of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, generations of Palestinian refugees have been born stateless and still live their lives in limbo today. UNRWA currently serves over 5.4 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East. UNRWA’s budget of $1.2 billion[1] goes to running schools (54%), health services (17%), and social and support services (25%).

UNRWA provides hope and basic services to millions of refugees whose needs would otherwise be unmet. In 2018, the Trump administration ended its support for UNRWA which had historically accounted for about 1/3 of UNRWA’s budget. The UN has asked member states to fill the critical funding gap. While the Harper government stopped all funding to UNRWA in 2009, the Trudeau government restarted annual contributions in 2016, and has also responded to UNRWA’s recent pleas for emergency.

Questions for Federal Candidates

  • Do you believe that Palestinians refugees should enjoy the same human protections and rights as other refugees around the world?
  • Do you believe that Canada should join its allies in helping bridge the funding gap for UNRWA?
  • Do you believe that Canada should provide leadership in global humanitarian crises?

If elected:

  • Will you support additional Canadian funding for UNRWA?
  • Will you work within your caucus to raise awareness of the vulnerability of Palestinian refugees?
  • Will you join the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Association?

Supporting Points

  • Humanitarian Concern. Trump’s decision to end US funding to UNRWA risks leaving the most vulnerable Palestinians without support for their basic needs. Without greater international support, UNRWA will be unable to cover the cost to keep schools open as well as providing healthcare and food aid for over 5.4 million Palestinian refugees. Trump’s decision creates an unprecedented politicisation of aid which risks worsening a dire situation for Palestinian refugees.
  • Canada’s Funding Record. In 2009 the Harper government stopped all funding for UNRWA until the Trudeau government restored funding in 2016. In 2009, Canada was 11th on the donor list for UNRWA; donating a total of $18 million.[2] With the Trudeau government UNRWA contributions of $25 million CAD starting in 2016 puts Canada back at 11th on the donor list.[3] In 2018, the Minister of International development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced $50 million CAD over two years for UNWRA[4]. However, the funds are not growing with the need to fill the critical funding gap created by the Trump administration.
  • Canada’s Potential for Leadership. Canada is the longstanding gavel-holder for the Refugee Working Group. Therefore, Canada has an international responsibility to lead the effort to find a long-term solution for Palestinian refugees and to ensure Palestinians refugees do not become destitute in the interim. Palestinian refugees constitute the world’s largest and most long-standing refugee population.[5]

Recommendations for Canada

  • In the absence of leadership from the U.S., Canada should join allies to address the urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees.
  • The Canadian government should join its allies and increase its UNRWA funding to help fill the organization’s funding gap.
  • As the gavel-holder for the Refugee Working Group, Canada should work with its allies to initiate practical discussions about long- and short-term solutions for Palestinian refugees.

 

[1] Mshasha, S. (2019, January 29). UNRWA Launches 2019 Emergency Appeals and Budget Requirement Totaling US$ 1.2 billion. Retrieved from https://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-launches-2019-emergency-appeals-and-budget-requirement-totaling-us-12

[2] Top 20 Donor to UNRWA. (2009). Retrieved from https://www.unrwa.org/how-you-can-help/government-partners/funding-trends/donor-charts

[3] Overall Donor Ranking. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.unrwa.org/how-you-can-help/government-partners/funding-trends/donor-charts

[4] $40 million CAD to meeting basic education, health, and livelihood needs for particularly women and children. $10 million CAD to providing emergency life-saving assistance to more than 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon.

[5] BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. (2015). What you need to know about Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. Retrieved from http://www.badil.org/en/publication/faq.html

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.