Response to the Huffington Post

09 February 2010

Dear Huffington Post Editor,

The recent article on US funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recycles baseless and damaging allegations which belie the co-operative and supportive relationship between UNRWA and the US Government, our single largest donor. The State Department is well aware of UNRWA’s pro-active, zero-tolerance policies towards political or militant activities among its staff and in its installations. This is a matter of public record.

The State Department is also aware of the contents of our school books having commissioned two independent reviews, both of which conclude that the curriculum does not incite hatred. It is these very text books which were reviewed in the State Department studies that are used by the State of Israel in Israeli administered schools in East Jerusalem, a fact that puts any criticisms into their proper context.

In addition, UNRWA has implemented a US funded human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance programme in all of its schools since 2002. Given the particularly difficult situation in Gaza, human rights is taught as a core subject in all grades with a dedicated human rights curriculum and specialized human rights teachers in every school.

Our track record in education is something of which we are justly proud. The statement made by by US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, at a meeting in the United Nations last September to mark the 60th anniversary of UNRWA speaks for itself:

“The United States notes with deep appreciation and gratitude the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East on the occasion of its 60th anniversary. ….. We acknowledge the critical role UNRWA plays in providing core services and humanitarian assistance for over 4.6 million Palestinian refugees. I am proud that the United States is UNRWA’s largest bilateral donor and take this opportunity to note the work of the almost 30,000 UNRWA employees, both national and international staff. UNRWA’s staff members, many of whom are Palestinian refugees themselves, often confront difficult and challenging circumstances, yet work tirelessly to provide quality education, health, and relief assistance programs to ensure the dignity and human development of those they serve.”

Yours sincerely,
Christopher Gunness,
UNRWA Spokesperson

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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