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UNRWA must continue

Apr 15,2019 - Last updated at Apr 15,2019

The high-level meeting in Stockholm, hosted by Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallström on Friday to discuss the sustainability of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), was off to a positive start when participants acknowledged the financial crisis facing it, and expressed willingness to mobilise international efforts to sustain it for years to come.

As is, UNRWA faces a funding gap in 2019 to the tune of $200 million. What is at stake is some 5 million Palestinian refugees forced to leave their homeland Palestine in the 1948 war, and are now scattered in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian refugees continue to need relief, healthcare, education, food and shelter. UN General Assembly Resolution 194 had provided for the support of the Palestinian refugees until they are allowed to return to their homeland Palestine. This right continues to be denied to them by Israel.

The conferees acknowledged that the continued assistance to the Palestinian refugees is vital for the stability and security of the region. What triggered the financial crisis for UNRWA was US President Donald Trump's sudden and arbitrary decision last year to cut off all US funds to UNRWA as part and parcel of his ill-conceived "deal of the century," which he conspires to apply on the Palestinians, irrespective of their qualms and objections against it.

The next step now is to deliver on the decisions of the meeting in Stockholm in deeds. The crisis facing UNRWA is something that can no longer be pushed aside, especially in the aftermath of the transparent conspiracy by the US to choke it to death.

The Arab countries are invited to be at the forefront of nations which are expected to rescue the agency from imminent bankruptcy.

Sweden deserves to be commended for taking a leadership role in the efforts to make UNRWA solvent. Many thanks to all the participants at the Stockholm meeting for sharing in the efforts to help UNRWA stand on its feet and continue its humanitarian mission to aid the Palestinian refugees. 

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