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  • 10:36 - 3 September 2018

Rights of Palestine refugees not bargaining chips

 Gaza,(DRAH.ps)-- Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in an open letter expressed deep regret and disappointment at the nature of the US decision to end all funding to UNRWA,

 “On 31 August, the United States announced that it will provide no additional funding to UNRWA. I express deep regret and disappointment at the nature of the US decision - which affects one of the most robust and rewarding partnerships in the humanitarian and development fields - and unreservedly reject its accompanying narrative”, Krähenbühl’s letter read.

 “The funding decision of an individual member state - albeit our historically most generous and consistent donor - will not modify or impact the energy and passion with which we approach our role and responsibility towards Palestine refugees. It will only strengthen our resolve, said Krähenbühl.

 “UNRWA's remarkable history is made up of millions of acts of selflessness and courage in one the world's most polarized and emotionally charged regions of the planet. I am proud and honored to lead this dynamic agency and wish to pay tribute to the dozens of colleagues whose lives were lost in recent years, in particular in Gaza, Syria and the West Bank”, he stated.

 “We were created in 1949 to provide assistance and protection of rights of Palestine refugees, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight”, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General added. “The need for humanitarian action arises from the extreme violence, pain, suffering and injustice caused by war. In the case of Palestine refugees, this was caused by forced displacement, dispossession, loss of homes and livelihoods, as well as by statelessness and occupation.”

 “No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or delegitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 Million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away.”

 “The responsibility for the protracted nature of the Palestine refugee-hood, the growing number of refugees and the growth in needs, lies squarely with the parties and in the international community's lack of will or utter inability to bring about a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The attempt to make UNRWA somehow responsible for perpetuating the crisis is disingenuous at best.”

 “In January 2018, the US announced that its annual contribution to UNRWA would be $60 M. We acknowledged this important funding at the time but also highlighted the fact that it represented a $300 M reduction in income, which confronted our organization with an existential crisis. At no time over the past eight months were we notified of the specific reasons for the dramatic cut.”

 “It appeared clearly related however to the tensions between the United States and the Palestinian leadership following the US announcement on Jerusalem and not to UNRWA's performance. It therefore represented an evident politicization of humanitarian aid. The announcement made yesterday further challenges the notion that humanitarian funding should be depoliticized. It risks undermining the foundations of the international multi-lateral and humanitarian systems.”

 “We are still in critical need of over $200 M to survive this year's crisis and call on donors to sustain the collective mobilization to succeed in this crucial endeavor.”

 “I say again to all Palestine refugees: we will not fail you. Our partnership with you is stronger than ever. Your Dignity is Priceless”, the letter concluded.

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