Canada is contributing $50-million to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency – after the United States decided to stop funding what it called an “irredeemably flawed” organization.
The new Canadian funds announced Friday will be allocated over two years to assist the health and education efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA.
The Trump administration decided in August to withdraw US$300-million in support for the UNRWA, ending the United States’ status as the largest donor for an organization that had been trying to help more than five million Palestinian refugees.
Israel has accused the agency of being biased, fuelling its conflict with the Palestinians and promoting hatred against the Jewish state.
Canada’s foreign ministry says the new funds will help bring stability to the region by helping Palestinians cope with poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. But it also says the money will assist UNRWA with “its ongoing efforts to improve neutrality within the agency and its operations.”
“This assistance demonstrates how Canada and UNRWA are working together to ensure respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, operational independence and impartiality,” a statement from Global Affairs Canada said.
Canada is earmarking $40-million toward the basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of Palestinian refugees, especially women and children. Another $10-million is aimed at helping 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon.
The new Canadian funds come two weeks after the European Union pledged an extra US$46-million to UNRWA to support its health and education services.
International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Canada’s new contribution would improve lives and “protect the human dignity” of millions of Palestinian refugees.
“This new funding to UNRWA is urgently needed, and it will bring some predictability to the agency as the needs on the ground are increasing,” she said in a statement.
Israel, meanwhile, has praised the U.S. decision to cut UNRWA funding, which the Trump administration said was an “irredeemably flawed” organization when it announced its decision at the end of August.
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his administration’s leading Mideast adviser, said in an internal e-mail published by Foreign Policy magazine that the agency “perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”
Mr. Kushner also reportedly called for a “sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA” in the e-mail.
Last month, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that the agency does work that is critical to the well-being of his people, but the United States simply wants to “obliterate it altogether.”