The U.N. agency for Palestinian “refugees” said Tuesday that Russia, Kuwait and nine European countries have agreed to speed up their contributions to help fill a shortfall left by the Trump administration’s decision to greatly reduce crucial U.S. funding.
U.N. Relief and Works Agency said Tuesday it is seeking $800 million for “emergency operations in Syria, the West Bank and Gaza”. In an appeal last week, the agency sought an additional $500 million.
UNWRA, which serves some 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, had a budget of over $1 billion last year. They claim the money goes to fund long-running programs, including education, as well as emergency funds for crises such as the war in Syria.
The U.S. has been the largest donor, giving one-third of the total budget. The Trump administration withheld half of the first installment of payments this year, demanding reforms as a condition for future aid.
The head of UNWRA, Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl said Tuesday that Russia, Kuwait and nine European countries have agreed to speed up their contributions to help fill a shortfall left by the Trump administration’s decision to greatly reduce crucial U.S. funding.
The Trump administration has committed $60 million this year — far short of the $360 million that the U.S. provided last year — and Krahenbuhl said he has no sign that other U.S. funding might be on the way.
“Evidently, that is a very severe and dramatic change in the parameters of funding from the United States,” which he called a “stable, predictable and most-generous contributor to UNRWA over decades.”
“It is clear that we have a very big task on our hand to fill that gap,” Krahenbuhl told reporters in Geneva.
Krahenbuhl also said UNWRA has received no specifics about reforms sought by the United States, suggesting politics — notably surrounding the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital — were at play.
UNRWA responded by calling on donors to speed up their funding, and Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Russia, Belgium, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Ireland have taken steps to do so, he said. Others were considering similar action.
“Advancing contributions is extremely important to help us address the first few months,” he said. “Of course, a shortfall of 300 million can only be addressed with obtaining additional income from other sources over the year.”
Krahenbuhl said he believed the funding cut was linked to the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and a subsequent vote by the U.N. General Assembly to denounce the decision.
“It is very clear that the decision by the United States was not related to our performance,” he said. “This has to be part of the debate that took place around Jerusalem.”