Spread the love

Ottawa has still not made a decision on resuming funding for UNRWA

Photo: Justin Tang The Canadian Press International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen speaks to the press before question period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 15.

Mia Rabson – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

March 6, 2024

  • Canada

Canada has not yet decided whether or not it will pay its usual contribution to the United Nations humanitarian organization in Gaza when its next scheduled payment is due in April.

Discussions are continuing on the subject, a senior government source said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

This includes talks with other countries that also froze funding in January for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as the name of UNRWA.

Sixteen countries, including a dozen of the organization's top 15 donors, suspended payments after Israel alleged that a dozen workers from the aid organization participated in the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7.

On that day, militants killed around 1,200 people in southern Israel and took nearly 250 others hostage, sparking a devastating war.

Authorities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip say more than 30,000 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli military response.

Also read

  • UNRWA and Israel accuse each other of “torture” and employing “terrorists” respectively
  • Ruba Ghazal wants to save UNRWA
  • Chronicle | At a loss for words

UNRWA is the main provider of social and humanitarian assistance in the territory, particularly in health care and education. It depends almost exclusively on donations from UN member countries.

Canada has not missed any payments since the funding pause was announced. His $25 million payment for this year is not due until April.

The Minister of International Development is confusing the waters

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said last week that he had seen the evidence provided by Israel and that Canada would not make a decision on restoring funding until an investigation would not be finished.

“We are working with our UN partners as well as donor countries that have suspended funding, such as Canada, to ensure a transparent and complete investigation,” Mr. Hussen said in Ottawa on February 28.

His office muddied the waters by scheduling and abruptly canceling a press conference by Minister Hussen scheduled for Wednesday morning.

He was to provide an update on the aid situation in Gaza, including a recent promise to help arrange airdrops of humanitarian aid.

Her team called it off about 90 minutes before it started.

A spokesperson for Mr. Hussen simply stated that the event had been canceled for “logistical reasons”. She neither confirmed nor denied a CBC News report Tuesday evening that Ahmed Hussen was set to announce that UNRWA funding would be delivered as planned.

The cancellation comes while Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly is in the Middle East to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict with her counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Israel.

Ms. Joly's office said Wednesday that it could not comment on Mr. Hussen's plan.

Canada's discussions come after the European Union decided late last week to make a partial payment of its funding to UNRWA.

In a statement, the European Commission said it had reached an agreement with the agency which, among other things, authorizes the EU to audit it and “reexamine control systems to prevent possible involvement of its personnel and assets in terrorist activities”.

The EU said it would initially distribute 60% of its funding, or about $54 million, and would withhold an additional $32 million pending implementation of the terms of the deal.< /p>

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that he believed countries that had withdrawn funding would soon restore it.

Mr. Eide said he believed most countries were reluctant to punish all Palestinians in Gaza because of the allegations against a small number of them.

Norway, the agency's fifth-largest donor, has not canceled its funding and is among several countries, including Portugal and Spain, that increased their donations after the Israeli allegations came to light.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was asked in Melbourne on Wednesday about Canada's report on UNRWA funding and appeared uncertain as he said it was the first time that he learned that Canada could resume its donations.

“We will make an assessment at the appropriate time,” he replied.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand have already worked together on their response to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Their prime ministers issued a joint statement on February 14 calling on Israel not to launch a ground offensive in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

More than 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge there, many of them fleeing their homes in the north amid Israeli bombardments.

The three jointly called for a “lasting ceasefire” and “rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian assistance”.

Aid efforts have been extremely limited since the start of the conflict. Ceasefire talks brokered between Israel and Hamas by the United States, Egypt and Qatar failed to reach an agreement on Tuesday.

And the situation in Gaza has exceeded crisis proportions.

“UNRWA does not have the capacity to absorb financial shocks”

“It is impossible to adequately describe the suffering in Gaza,” the UNRWA Commissioner General told the UN General Assembly on March 4.

“Doctors will amputate the limbs of injured children without anesthesia. Hunger is everywhere. A man-made famine is looming,” warned Philippe Lazzarini.

He said Israel had not provided him with any further information since his initial allegations on January 18, but had terminated the contracts of the accused UNRWA employees and launched an independent investigation, which is still in progress.

The UN Secretary-General also commissioned an independent study into the agency's approach to risk management and neutrality.

Israel has long accused the organization of inciting anti-Israel sentiment, a charge it denies.

Mr Lazzarini called allegations that workers were involved in the October 7 attack “unfounded” and implored countries to restore funding. He stressed that the total amount of suspended donations amounts to $450 million.

“UNRWA does not have the capacity to absorb financial shocks. Especially while a war is raging in Gaza,” he argued.

When Canada announced it was suspending funding, it added an additional $40 million to support Gaza through other organizations, including the World Food Program and UNICEF.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116