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Council for International Development Aotearoa New Zealand urges continued support for UNRWA amidst funding suspensions 

Posted on 29 January 2024

The Council for International Development (CID) Aotearoa New Zealand calls for New Zealand to continue their funding and support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). 

CID’s Executive Director Peter Rudd says, “It is very important to continue supporting UNRWA's vital humanitarian operations despite the extremely serious allegations surrounding around 12 personnel. UNRWA are still the largest aid organisation currently operating inside Gaza with around 13,000 staff, and the humanitarian need is both urgent and significant. While these allegations of course demand thorough investigation and accountability, suspending funding would have severe and catastrophic consequences on humanitarian aid inside the Gaza strip.” 

New Zealand currently provides $1 million funding a year to UNRWA, an arrangement which comes to an end this year. The New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has stated, “As we always do prior to releasing funds, we will assess the situation again prior to that payment being made.”  

According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, over 2 million people in Gaza depend on UNRWA for their daily survival, but the current funding will not allow the organisation to meet all the requirements to support those in need. 

Many countries have temporarily suspended their funding for the organisation as a response to the allegations of several UNRWA staff members’ involvement in Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel. Guterres has stated the UN is taking immediate action following the allegations, having activated an investigation by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). “Of the 12 people implicated, nine were immediately identified and terminated by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini; one is confirmed dead, and the identity of the two others is being clarified”, he says. 

Guterres states, “While I understand their concerns…I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations.”  

The humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, with over 26,000 people now killed including more than 10,000 children. Gaza is currently at risk of a complete medical shutdown and collapse of the public health system as essential services are overcrowded and under resourced. As the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza, it is vital UNRWA continues to operate to provide lifesaving food, shelter and healthcare to the people of Gaza. 

The suspensions also comes following the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Israel must do everything in its power to avoid breaching the UN’s Genocide Convention, as well as ordering “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance.” Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner General, underscores that working with humanitarian partners, in particular UNRWA, is essential in achieving this. 


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