Danby critical of UNRWA

May 30, 2010 Agencies
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Federal Labour Party Member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, delivered an appropriation speech  criticising UNRWA in parliamentary committee last week…

J-Wire publishes Danby’s speech in full:

Michael Danby

I also want to be critical of the $12.7 million we are giving each year to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA. This is a single-nation focused UN agency which exists solely to channel aid to the four  million people living in the Palestinian territories and other countries. The sad fact is that UNRWA is a refugee organisation which employs 26,000 people, and it is focused on one group. The UNHCR, the refugee agency that covers the rest of the world, only has 11,000 employees. This is plainly totally out of kilter and in fact helps perpetuate the state of dependence on foreign aid and the continuing status of the Palestinian people in these territories. UNRWA should have over the years done what every other refugee agency in the world has done —work to transit people out of dependence and out of refugee status in the part of the world that they are able to live in at the moment.

I am all in favour of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians and I support the money we are spending on assisting people in Gaza and the West Bank. I think we need to look more closely at how we spend it and where we spend it. In my view it would be much better for Australian aid to go to the Palestinians in the West Bank rather than being given in cash to be put in the bank accounts of the Palestinian National Authority to end up God knows where, although I must say Mr Salam Fayyadd, the treasurer of the Palestinian National Authority,is a great improvement on Mr Arafat who used to give out cash in brown bags to leading members of Fatah.

By the way, Fatah is conducting an internal investigation into what happened to the entire international aid that was given to them in the 1970s and 1980s, which has disappeared entirely without any accounts and which was used by leading officials of that organisation to buy property in Qatar, Syria and Jordan. The Palestinian people, through their leading political party, Fatah, are demanding their money back from all the leading officials of that organisation. I think we need to look more closely at the endemic waste, corruption and misappropriation of funds that has plagued UNRWA and this kind of funding over the years. One thing I would particularly suggest is that Australian companies should be given tenders to develop sewerage works in Palestinian cities in the West Bank rather than money just being paid directly into a general account of another quasi-government Australians could be employed. This would be a much better use of Australian taxpayers’ money.


One Response to “Danby critical of UNRWA”
  1. orit says:

    Well said Michael Danby – this is so overdue. Wish there were more like you, who would be prepared to say it like it is.

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