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Cutting support for UNRWA and starving Gaza: MEMO in Conversation with Dr Lex Takkenberg

UNRWA isn't only an aid agency, it is vital for advocating for the rights of Palestine refugees on a global stage, is that why Israel seeks to shut it down? Join this week's MEMO in Conversation as we discuss why UNRWA is being targeted.

February 8, 2024 at 5:00 pm


This week’s special episode of MEMO in Conversation features an in-depth discussion with Dr Lex Takkenberg about the recent decision by Israel’s western allies to suspend funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). This controversial move comes at a perilous time as a humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in Gaza due to Israel’s military aggression. To analyse the context, consequences and complexities around this funding cut and discuss the history of UNRWA, we speak to Takkenberg who has extensive experience working in various roles within UNRWA. He helps unpack key issues related to the rights of Palestinian refugees under international law and why their plight remains unresolved more than 70 years after the formation of the UN agency set up to support them.

We explore the allegations prompting the funding cuts as well as the devastating impact the measures will have on desperately needed aid programmes. The discussion provides insight into Israel’s decades- long hostility towards UNRWA and why the agency serves a vital symbolic purpose for advocating for the rights of Palestine refugees on the global stage. This timely interview sheds light on an unfolding crisis threatening stability in an already volatile region.

Dr Lex Takkenberg is a Dutch national, who currently serves as senior adviser with Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) and is a non-resident professor at the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs. Dr Takkenberg worked with UNRWA from 1989 until late 2019, most recently as the first Chief of its Ethics Office. Prior to that, he held a range of other positions with the UN body, including as General Counsel, Director of Operations, and (Deputy) Field Director in Gaza and Syria. Before joining UNRWA, he was the Legal Officer of the Dutch Refugee Council for six years.

OPINION: What is UNRWA, and why is Israel trying to have it closed down?