Visit to Jordan Development Ministry releases funding for UNRWA

Press release 7 November 2023 | Following the brutal attack of the terrorist group Hamas on Israel on 7 October, Development Minister Svenja Schulze had announced that Germany's development support for the Palestinian territories would be subjected to a review. Due to the fragile situation in the region, the review has not yet been fully completed. However, taking account of the growing needs of people in the Gaza Strip and the increasingly unstable situation in a number of neighbouring countries, the review has focused, as a matter of priority, on the continuation of support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Development Minister Svenja Schulze in discussions with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Amman, Jordan

Development Minister Svenja Schulze in discussions with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Amman, Jordan

Development Minister Svenja Schulze in discussions with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Amman, Jordan

As a first partial result of the review, the Minister has now decided to release 71 million euros in funding that had already been earmarked for commitments for UNRWA, and to make available an additional 20 million euros in new funding. As a first step, these 91 million euros are to go towards measures to continue the provision of basic services for displaced people in the Gaza Strip and of assistance for Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Minister Schulze announced this today after a meeting with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Amman. The UNRWA activities in the southern Gaza Strip that are financed with German development funding will target internally displaced people in the Gaza Strip, focusing on the permanent provision of drinking water for the civilian population and hygiene and sanitation in emergency shelters.

Development Minister Svenja Schulze said, “The brutal attack of Hamas on Israel is also extremely harmful to the Palestinian population. We see how much the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza is suffering. We want to alleviate this suffering. As we do that, it is important to already think of the time after the war, which hopefully will not be in the very distant future. Then, there will have to be institutions for the Gaza Strip that really address people's needs. UNRWA is the most important partner for providing assistance to the people in the Gaza Strip. We must not abandon this agency if a peaceful future for Israel and the Palestinian territories is to be achieved. This is also in the security interest of Israel and of the millions of people in the Palestinian territories who want to live in peace. Germany will do its share. This does not only apply to support for civilians in the Gaza Strip but also to Jordan, which has been hosting millions of Palestinian refugees for decades.”

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini: “We are grateful for this generous contribution from Germany in support of UNRWA and its work. Germany has long been known for its commitment and partnership to the Agency. This is very timely as UNRWA responds to dire needs of civilians in Gaza and will support the Agency’s work in Jordan as well. UNRWA reiterates that contributions to UNRWA only go to Palestine Refugees and people in need.”

Since 1949, in line with the mandate laid down by the UN General Assembly, UNRWA has been providing health centres, schools, drinking water, vocational training and other basic services (including waste management) for 5.9 million registered Palestine Refugees. The agency, which has 30,000 staff members, is not only active in Gaza but also in the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, which have also been home to millions of Palestinian refugees for decades. Especially in regions like the Gaza Strip, where cooperation with the local leaders from the terrorist Hamas is no option for Germany and other donors, UNRWA is the key actor and point of contact for them. However, the agency is in a precarious financial situation, not least in view of the current escalation.

The Federal Foreign Office, which is the lead ministry for UNRWA within the German government, had already committed additional funding for humanitarian aid through UNRWA in October. These resources go towards support such as shipments of food and drinking water. The development funding provided by the BMZ goes to the repair of infrastructure such as water supply systems, to employment generation, schools, hospitals, and to psychosocial support. Shipping in water by truck will not be sufficient in the long term to provide over two million people in the Gaza Strip with water. There is a need for water pipes and water treatment systems, too, in order to facilitate permanent water supply.

The total of 91 million euros that has now been committed for 2023 can be used by UNRWA, initially, for assistance in the southern Gaza Strip and in Jordan. Specifically, one activity will be to provide water for the 1.4 million people who have been displaced to southern Gaza, and to improve sanitation and hygiene services at emergency shelters. In addition, the BMZ will adjust ongoing projects with UNRWA to respond to the new emergency.

In Jordan, the activities will involve, among other things, investments in schools, hospitals and employment opportunities in order to help stabilise the situation in refugee camps.

Funding provided to UNRWA is subject to a system of checks that consists of several stages. This system ensures that the funding will go directly to needy people and cannot be used by Hamas or other terrorist organisations. The checks cover both UNRWA workers and partner organisations, construction companies and suppliers. As projects are implemented, progress reviews are continuously carried out on the ground in order to ensure that materials will really reach their destination. Israeli authorities are closely involved in implementing the checks in the Palestinian territories. In Gaza, this concerns, for example, Israeli approval for bringing in goods.

Update (23 November 2023)

As a further partial result of the review, on 22 November 2023 the BMZ decided that UNRWA could use funds provided by the BMZ in all of the regions in which it is active – meaning, alongside Jordan, also in the West Bank and in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and, in specific cases, in Syria. Due to the current situation, long-term development policy measures via UNRWA in the Gaza Strip remain excluded.

In addition, ongoing transitional development assistance projects will be continued and readjusted: in the Gaza Strip, these will focus on providing basic services in the current conflict and displacement situation. In concrete terms, this means providing trauma therapy for children and establishing emergency shelters via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for example. Via the German Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent Movement, disaster management will be strengthened and first aid capacity among civilians increased. The UN World Food Programme is offering support when it comes to securing harvest yields in particular. In the West Bank, the continued and readjusted projects will focus on social cohesion in order to contribute to de-escalation in the current tense political situation.