CMEP Action Alert: Tell the Biden Administration to Release Funding to UNRWA
In 2018, the Trump administration announced its decision to cut all US aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as well as all bilateral humanitarian assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. US churches and agencies, including Global Ministries, called on Pres. Trump’s Administration to reverse that decision. UNRWA provides vital funding to millions of Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East and funding cuts will have a devastating impact on already vulnerable communities.UNRWA helps administer critical services and resources such as health care, education, and emergency food assistance to Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East including in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. UNRWA’s work is even more important now as COVID-19 greatly exacerbates the difficult conditions that Palestinian refugees endure. Before the $360 million dollars in US funding was cut, it accounted for nearly 30 percent of UNRWA’s budget. Although UNRWA continues to operate at full capacity, even with inadequate resources, there is an urgent need for funds to sustain the delivery of essential services—and to maintain the salaries of all of its 30,000 staff members. UNRWA has expressed great concern at its ability to procure said funds without the immediate assistance of the Biden administration. President Joe Biden affirmed his support for the restoration of “U.S. assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people” in a statement from Ambassador Richard Mills in the UN Security Council in January 2021, but his promises of change must become action. Now more than ever, it is necessary for the United States to restore its aid to UNRWA and other bilateral assistance programs, reaffirming its commitment to the Palestinian people by providing them with much-needed humanitarian assistance.
As the President of the United States, Joe Biden can release the funding for UNRWA and bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza at his own discretion, as it has already been appropriated by Congress. It is imperative that he hears the support of the American people for the restoration of funding to UNRWA, among many other humanitarian assistance organizations and programs, all of which provide vital aid and relief to Palestinians.
Since its creation in 1949, the United States has pledged its unyielding financial support to UNRWA, and every administration since—both Republican and Democratic—has continued American support for the organization—all with the exception of one. With the slashing of funds to UNRWA in 2018 by Donald Trump, the United States’ longstanding commitment to the Palestinian people and the cause of humanitarianism was severely damaged, and the hardship faced by Palestinians was perpetuated, now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the current arrangement undermines the end goal of peace, stability, and equity for Israelis, Palestinians, and all other peoples in the region. It is necessary that President Joe Biden releases bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza as well as to UNRWA as soon as possible to help meet immediate humanitarian needs, and to bring about the United States’ re-entry to the global stage as a force for positive change in the name of peace, justice, and human rights.