Risk of Decreased Relief Funding for Palestinian Refugees



‚óŹ Ingrid Stephanie

Risk of Decreased Relief Funding for Palestinian Refugees

 

Executive Summary

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recognizes the current United States Department of State’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision to reduce funding for the Agency as detrimental to the organization’s efforts for the empowerment and alleviation of Palestinian refugees. This action is of grave concern, as the United States government has prioritized the suppression of relief activity and instead utilized the innate conditions Palestinian refugees face as a political tool, treating this population similarly to that of a commodity. Risks to the UNRWA range from providing ineffective services in food insecurity, education, health, and social services for Palestinian refugees. The United States should increase its funding amounts for the UNRWA.

 

Policy Issue and Research Question

The UNRWA undertook a study on the needs of Palestinian refugees for the Honorable Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State for the United States Department of State.  The study aimed to:

1)      ascertain the ways in which the United States had previously assisted Palestinian refugees through the UNRWA

2)     evaluate the risk posed to the Department of State by the current lack of involvement, and

3)     suggest to the Department of State procedures and policies to mitigate risk from this phenomenon.

 

Policy Concerns

The main policy concerns relevant to the Palestinian refugees’ needs are as follow:

 

 

 

 

 

Policy and Procedure Recommendations

The UNRWA assesses that the United States, in specific the Department of State, bears considerable risk from reducing its donations towards Palestinian refugees, given its current Arab-Israeli geo-political relations. UNRWA has prepared the following recommendations for policy and procedures to mitigate this menace.

 

  1. Return United States relief amounts towards the UNRWA to the target $350 million amount. The US had previously supplied 30 percent of total funding to UNRWA, as the Agency’s largest donor. Decreasing or fully getting rid of US assistance could constrain the agency and severely limit its work, which puts great pressure on Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority. Gaza would be severely affected as well.[9]
  2. Depoliticize Palestinian refugees from a United States-Israeli conspiracy, and instead focus upon negotiating concrete relief and security policy measures to assist the needs of Palestinian refugees. Removing the unreasonable stigma of Palestinian refugees being relevant to concessions of a previous 1948 Israeli victory and alternatively viewing Palestinian refugees as a population equally to be assisted as refugees of other nations would make negotiated comprehensive reform measures less complex and onerous for all actors. The securitization of refugees is problematic. Most are everyday people attempting to restart their lives after trauma. Viewing refugees as latent security threats, whether through the weakening of host countries or possible terrorism recruits, is an injustice to their real difficulties.[10]
  3. The United States should work with Israel and UN member nations to develop amendments for addressing issues relevant to migration, food insecurity, education, health & social services of Palestinian refugees, notwithstanding geo-political concerns. Amendments to relevant UN Resolutions, as well as UNRWA and UNHCR affiliated documents to be analysed in conjunction with governments, non-governmental organizations, as well as transnational advocacy networks would be integral to addressing comprehensive reform as guidelines for the international community at large. 

Name, SISU-319-001-2018S: Arab-Israeli Relations

Policy Memo: Risk of Decreased Relief Funding for Palestinian Refugees

About the author:

Ingrid Stephanie, the US-based intl. relations specialist. Her focus is on the human rights (humanitarian law), democratic accountability, and conflict resolution studies as it relates to international development for the Latin America and Middle East regions.

 

Ljubljana, July 26, 2018

[1] “US Wants to Cut Money for Palestinian Refugees,” CNBC, January 15, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/15/us-wants-to-cut-money-for-palestinian-refugees.html

[2] Perry Cammack & Sarah Yerkes, “The Sharpest Cut,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 12, 2018, http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/75229

[3] Astrid van Genderen Stort, Peter Kessler, ed. Vivian Tan, “Palestinians Leave Desert Camp for Baghdad,” UNHCR, May 26, 2006, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2004/5/40b4a6c04/palestinians-leave-desert-camp-baghdad.html?query=palestine%20jordan

[4] Peter Kessler, ed. Vivian Tan, “UNHCR seeks solutions for Palestinians on Iraq-Jordan border,” UNHCR, November 28, 2003, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/latest/2003/11/3fc758b52/unhcr-seeks-solutions-palestinians-iraq-jordan-border.html

[5] “UN Warns of Aid Shortfall for Palestinian refugees,” NHK World, February 5, 2018, https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180206_10/

[6] Ibrahim Husseini, “Palestinian refugees live in fear of Trump aid cuts,” Aljazeera, January 10, 2018, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/palestinian-refugees-live-fear-trump-aid-cuts-180110121216668.html

[7] “Amid funding crunch, UN Agency seeks $800 million in lifesaving aid for Palestine refugees”, UN News Centre, January 30, 2018, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58506#.WoCosqhKuCw

[8] Perry Cammack & Sarah Yerkes, “The Sharpest Cut,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 12, 2018, http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/75229

[9] “US Wants to Cut Money for Palestinian Refugees,” CNBC, January 15, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/15/us-wants-to-cut-money-for-palestinian-refugees.html

[10] Marc Lynch and Laurie Brand, “Refugees and Displacement in the Middle East,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 29, 2017, http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/03/29/refugees-and-displacement-in-middle-east-pub-68479