UNRWA hits Funding Crisis

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), says their current funding problems are bringing the agency to a collapse, saying:

“It has become so unstable it is causing an existential threat to the organisation.”

Philippe Lazzarini speaking at a conference November 2021
Philippe Lazzarini speaking at a conference in November 2021


Donald Trump’s administration stopped funding UNRWA back in 2018 – a major blow to the organisation. Other countries tried to fill gap in funding, but the resumption of US aid under Joe Biden’s administration has been offset by a lack of commitment from the Gulf countries, as well as reductions by other countries including the UK.

The Gulf states’ contributions have dropped from $200m in 2018 to $87m in 2019, then $37m in 2020, and so far, just $20m for 2021. In the meantime, the UK has reduced its core grant from £42.5m in 2020 to £20.8m in 2021 – a cut of more than 50 percent.

In a parliamentary answer, James Cleverly, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, explained:

“The reduction in funding to the Palestinian Authority was in direct response
to the official development assistance prioritisation review,
which was itself in response to the economic constraints driven by covid.”

Regarding the matter of antisemitic content in Palestinian textbooks, he said the government continues to support the Palestinians through the UNRWA and will continue to press for that education curriculum to be devoid of any examples of antisemitism.

UNRWA was created in 1949 to provide support for Palestinian refugees who left their homes during Israel’s War of Independence, when it was attacked by the armies of five neighbouring countries.

The agency currently seeks to help around 5.3 million Palestinian refugees in the Disputed Territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Lazzarini described Palestinians as being in a state of distress, despair and hopelessness; saying that the UN agency’s financial struggle to deliver its most essential services is creating a deep sense of abandonment among them.

But he continues to bury his head in the sand when it comes to the matter of antisemitism in the Palestinian school textbooks. He claims that:

“Every year we have tens of schools that are rewarded by the British Council for the quality of their education.
By investing in the education of more than 500,000 boys and girls in the region,
we are not only investing in the future, but in the stability of the region.”

Yet he ignores the crucial question of what those 500,000 children are being taught. And it has now been widely demonstrated that the textbooks fall well short of UNESCO standards that are intended to promote peace.

Antisemitic content that de-legitimises the existence of the State of Israel and the failure to apply human rights to the Jews, along with the failure to apply principles of co-existence and tolerance to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all serve to prolong the physical conflict.

In effect, the Palestinian children are being taught to fight for the land.

PMW report on Fatah Waed magazine

Indeed, Palestinian Media Watch have just released a report on the contents of Fatah’s Waed magazine for children aged 6 to 15. It notes that the education of children through this magazine is ‘the antithesis of peace education.’

Waed’s fundamental messages to its young readers are:

‘that Israelis are foreign colonialist invaders, and therefore,Israel has no right to exist.

Palestinians led by Fatah will continue the heroic armed struggle until the defeated invaders leave.’