Canada to resume fund support for UN agency for Palestine refugees

TORONTO – Canada has announced it will resume support to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) after a decision to pause funding because of Israeli allegations.

Several countries, including the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Canada have initially suspended funding to the agency that was established in 1949 to cater to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East following reports that 12 UNRWA staff participated in the October 7, 2023 Hamas attack.

As the agency previously announced that it is investigating the allegations, a statement by the Global Affairs of Canada said it “commends the independent review of UNRWA currently underway, led by Catherine Colonna, and anticipates reviewing the report assessing UNRWA’s neutrality mechanisms.”

“While these investigative processes continue, UNRWA has taken immediate measures to strengthen oversight, accountability, and transparency,” it added.

Pledging to “work with fellow donors, the UN, and UNRWA to ensure that the recommendations stemming from both the OIOS investigation and the independent review are fully implemented,” it said, “Canada expects UNRWA to meet its obligations and uphold the UN’s value of neutrality: this is an essential component of UNRWA’s mandate.”

It noted the “vital role” the UNRWA plays by “providing over 2 million people with humanitarian relief,” and hailed “crucial operations supporting 4 million people elsewhere in the region.”

“Other organizations also rely on UNRWA’s experience and infrastructure to deliver humanitarian assistance in Gaza,” it said.

Reiterating its call to respect the obligations stemming from international humanitarian law, Canada further urged all parties to “allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.”

“Canada is committed to a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security, with dignity and without fear,” it noted.

Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen, said the decision came as a result of a desire to protect civilians.

“Canada is resuming its funding to UNRWA so more can be done to respond to the urgent needs of Palestinian civilians,” he said.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) welcomed the announcement. NCCM head Stephen Brown said: “There are no other agencies that can replicate UNRWA’s central role in the humanitarian response in Gaza.”

“While funding should not have been paused in the first place, the government made the right decision today by renewing and increasing funding,” he said.

Israel has launched a retaliatory offensive on Gaza since a cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct. 7.

The offensive has killed more than 30,800 people and injured nearly 73,000 amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Palestinian enclave, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

About 85 percent of Gazans have been displaced by the Israeli onslaught amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60 percent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which in an interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza. (Anadolu)