Norway has pledged to donate $124 million as part of a four-year funding agreement with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt made the announcement during a meeting in Oslo with Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, who appealed last month for $1.6 billion to provide life-saving assistance for more than five million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and countries across the Middle East.
“I am deeply concerned about UNRWA’s financial situation. UNRWA plays a key role in ensuring that the rights and basic needs of Palestine refugees are met and promoting stability in the Middle East. This is why Norway is now increasing its funding for UNRWA and will provide a total of NOK 1.1 billion over a period of four years,” said Huitfeldt.
The agency’s humanitarian operations, added Lazzarini, are a lifeline for the most destitute.
UNRWA was created in 1949 to provide assistance and protection for the Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes to make way for the creation of the state of Israel.
The organisation currently offers its services to about 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
UNRWA depends almost entirely on voluntary donations from UN member states, however, it has faced severe financial difficulties since the US administration of President Donald Trump stopped donations altogether in 2018. Though some of these funds have been reinstated, they have failed to fill the funding gap.
Moreover, the UK had more than halved its funds to UNRWA from £42.5 million ($57.2 million) in 2020 to £20.8 million ($28 million) in 2021. The UK was the third largest overall donor to UNRWA in 2020, but its latest cut puts it in the second tier of contributors.
“UNRWA’s ability to provide services is important for stability in the Middle East. Norway recognises this and will continue to give priority to providing support to the agency, in solidarity with the refugees. These multi-year agreements will provide greater predictability and make it easier for UNRWA to plan its operations and spending. I call on other donors to increase their funding as well,” said Huitfeldt.