On 31 August 2018, the United States’ Department of State issued a statement declaring an end to its financial assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The US administration claims that UNRWA is an “irredeemably flawed operation” citing that “the fundamental business model and fiscal practices . . . is unsustainable” and calls on other states to shoulder the disproportionate financial burden.
In lieu of the possibility of obtaining a United Nations resolution to terminate the Agency, the US and Israel are jointly implementing an illegitimate political strategy designed to eliminate UNRWA by financially crippling the agency in parallel to a delegitimation campaign.
The proposed joint US-Israeli political strategy, which can reasonably be considered a component of the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’, completely flouts the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and reparations (voluntary repatriation, property restitution, compensation and non-repetition). The tactics utilized by the US and Israel, which have significant escalated since the Oslo Accords, include the following:
- Exerting pressure to reduce states’ voluntary contributions to the Agency;
- Imposing restricted project-based or emergency funding rather than essential/core funding which severely limits UNRWA’s flexibility and responsiveness;
- Calling on Gulf Arab states to absorb the financial crisis which is US-orchestrated;
- Transferring the legal responsibility from the international community, including Israel to host states;
- Portraying UNRWA as an unqualified and corrupt entity;
- Providing an alternative, limiting definition for Palestine refugees irreconcilable with international law;
BADIL calls upon the UN and member states to fulfil their obligations and responsibilities through the following essential actions:
- Safeguard UNRWA’s financial and institutional sustainability as a UN organization by establishing a mandatory funding mechanism ensuring sufficient core contributions to the Agency’s annual budget with consideration for the growing needs of Palestinian refugees until durable solutions are implemented according to United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 194 of 1948 and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 237 of 1967.
- Expand the legal and geographic jurisdiction of UNRWA to incorporate all the components of international protection (physical and legal protection, and humanitarian aid and assistance);
- Reaffirm the internationally recognized definition of refugee, including expansion of UNRWA’s definition of ‘Palestine refugee’ that is currently based on need rather than displacement or persecution status as enshrined in international law.
- Urge the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to close the protection gap resulting from the dysfunctional United Nations Reconciliation Committee on Palestine (UNCCP) and the limited mandate of UNRWA in accordance to Article 1/D of the 1951 Refugee Convention;
- Urge the UN Secretary General to enforce the relevant UNGA resolutions, particularly Resolution 36/146 of December 1981, regarding the protection and administration of refugees properties located inside Israel as well as the use of the benefits derived from refugees’ properties;
- Enforce the plethora of UNGA and UNSC resolutions issued to hold Israel accountable to international law and its legal obligations such as Resolution 2252 of July 1967 and Resolution 3236 of November 1974; UNSC Resolution 465 of March 1980, and Resolution 478 of August 1980; UNGA Resolutions 47/70 A-G of December 1992; and UNGA Resolution 2334 of December 2016;
- Promptly denounce the US administration’s invalid attempts to transfer UNRWA’s (and by extension, the international community’s) financial and legal responsibilities to other Arab and host states.
 US Department of State, On US Assistance to UNRWA, 31 August 2018. Available at: https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/08/285648.htm.
 BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, A strategic approach rather than mere reactions is required to address the aggressions against UNRWA, 19 January 2018. Available at: http://www.badil.org/en/publication/press-releases/87-2018/4842-pr-en-190118-01.html.
 The resolution is annually reaffirmed by UNGA. See for example Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues, A/RES/72/83, 14 December 2017, available at: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/72/83