News from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Denmark disburses planned contribution to UNRWA

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The DKK 105 million contribution will primarily support UNRWA’s efforts to mitigate the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. The disbursement follows the initiation of a number of necessary UN measures, and decisions by like-minded such as Sweden and Canada, as well as the EU, to disburse aid to UNRWA.

The UN has conducted a credible follow-up on the case of Israeli accusations regarding the participation of UNRWA employees in Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October 2023. Among other things, the UN and UNRWA immediately dismissed the surviving employees under accusation and launched an urgent investigation into the matter by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). Furthermore, an external and independent investigation into UNRWA’s control and supervision mechanisms is currently underway and will present recommendations on strengthening the organisation, including procedures for handling future accusations against employees of the organisation. UNRWA has also launched internal efforts to strengthen its existing control mechanisms.

Against this background, countries such as Canada and Sweden, which had temporarily suspended their support to UNRWA, decided to resume the payment of new contributions. The EU has also disbursed its payments. Similarly, the Danish Government will disburse the Danish core contribution to UNRWA amounting to DKK 105 million. This contribution will support the organisation’s programme initiatives for Palestine refugees in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, with a particular focus on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“The accusations against UNWRA have pointed to a number of organisational weaknesses in UNRWA’s control mechanisms and handling of accusations. Denmark, like other countries, has engaged in close dialogue with UNRWA on how these weaknesses can be remedied. Given this dialogue, the follow-up by the UN, and the agreement we have entered into with UNRWA, we can now pay out the planned support as pledged. Our decision to disburse this payment is aligned with similar decisions by Sweden, the EU and Canada. The support comes at a time when the humanitarian situation is disastrous, and will help to support the life-saving humanitarian operation. There is currently no alternative to UNRWA in Gaza. In the longer term, it will be absolutely critical that important reform measures are initiated in the organisation,” says Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy Dan Jørgensen.

UNRWA has entered into a bilateral agreement with Denmark to share information relating to the internal control of employees, strengthened control mechanisms, and the protection of Danish funds in the event of suspicion of an UNRWA worker’s participation in the terrorist attack of 7 October. UNWRA has entered into similar agreements with Sweden and the EU.

“The Danish Government urgently appeals for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. It is essential that we get more emergency aid on the ground as quickly as possible. If this effort is to succeed, UNRWA plays an indispensable role right now. It is probably too much to hope that all of the weak points of the organisation have disappeared, but the leadership has initiated a number of measures to restore trust. Therefore, in line with a number of like-minded countries, we have decided to disburse our planned contribution. Meanwhile, we are engaged in a wide range of other efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including support for the maritime humanitarian corridor and putting pressure on Israel to improve humanitarian access by land,” says Minister for Foreign Affairs Lars Løkke Rasmussen. 

Background

Denmark has a strategic partnership with UNRWA and provides an annual core contribution of DKK 105 million. In addition to the core contribution, Denmark has also provided extraordinary support to UNRWA in times when the humanitarian situation has become significantly more critical. Under its mandate, UNRWA provides protection, schooling and health services for 5.6 million Palestine refugees. UNRWA thus helps to ensure basic services for Palestine refugees living in some of the most vulnerable areas of the Middle East, such as Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. UNRWA’s scaled-up relief effort in Gaza and other regions builds on the organisation’s existing structures and more than 5,000 employees in Gaza alone.

On 26 January 2024, UNRWA notified Denmark and the other donors of accusations by Israel against 12 named UNRWA employees. At the time, Denmark had not yet disbursed its annual core contribution to UNRWA, which thus gave Denmark the opportunity to take stock of the UN’s follow-up on the matter. Since the accusations, Denmark has engaged in close dialogue with UNRWA and UN leadership, as well as other donors, about the handling of the matter.

On 1 March, the EU Commission announced that the planned support would be disbursed in two instalments. Canada has also resumed its support in response to the sharing of preliminary findings of the UN’s internal investigation into UNRWA, and has announced its intention to pledge additional funding. Sweden has also announced the resumption of Swedish support. Norway, Spain and Ireland have maintained – and increased – their support to UNRWA throughout the process.

According to the health authorities in Gaza, more than 30,800 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October and at least 72,400 injured, and 165 UNRWA workers have been killed. Approximately 1.7 million people are internally displaced in Gaza, corresponding to approximately 75% of the population. The majority are living in difficult, overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. The lack of security for aid workers and facilities, including health facilities and medical personnel, is a serious challenge.

WFP estimates that the entire civilian population of Gaza is suffering critical food insecurity, and that one in four families are suffering extreme food insecurity and at risk of starvation. Around 90% of children under the age of 5 are sick. According to figures from UNICEF, approximately 81% of households lack adequate access to clean water.

In 2023, Denmark gave a total of DKK 171. million in humanitarian aid to UNRWA. No aid payments have been disbursed to UNRWA in 2024 before now.

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