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Palestinians fear the end of UNRWA's mandate

Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip protested against attempts to politicise UNRWA and limit its mandate in as a result of US pressure, on 5 October 2021 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip protested against attempts to politicise UNRWA and limit its mandate in as a result of US pressure, on 5 October 2021 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

The Palestinian National Council (PNC) warned on Sunday that the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) may be about to be ended, Safa has reported.

The head of PNC's Political Committee, Saleh Nasser, claimed that recent comments by Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini about the agency increasing its partnerships with other UN bodies "is a prelude to donors stopping their funding for UNRWA."

Lazzarini's message, according to Saleh, has raised fears among the Palestinians that UNRWA is going to abandon its responsibilities due to its chronic budget deficit.

"The painful reality is that in the last ten years, and despite immense outreach and fundraising efforts, the resources available to UNRWA have stagnated, while the needs of Palestine refugees and cost of operations keep increasing," explained Lazzarini. "UNRWA has increasingly been exposed to domestic politics in some of its traditional donor countries."

READ: Palestinian refugees are being marginalised by the focus on UNRWA

The UN official added that, "Coordinated campaigns by organisations that aim to delegitimise and defund the agency and erode the rights of Palestine refugees have increased in frequency and aggression."

It is well known that Israel has been lobbying hard to have UNRWA closed down as it is the only UN agency to have a specific mandate to look after the basic needs of Palestinian refugees. If the agency no longer exists, argues Israel, then the refugee issue must no longer exist, and the legitimate right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land will be unnecessary. Israel has denied that right of return since the late 1940s, even though its own membership of the UN was made conditional upon Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to their homes and land.

Incredibly, UNRWA depends almost entirely on voluntary donations from UN member states, making it extremely vulnerable to pro-Israel lobby groups which are influential in various key capitals.

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