UNRWA: Opportune time to hold UNRWA accountable

September 19, 2021 by David Bedein
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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees has faced a difficult week.

David Bedein

On  September 9,  the UNRWA donor nations gathered for a conference of donor nations in Amman to launch a new school year for half a million students who learn in UNRWA schools located in 59 “temporary” (since 1949) UNRWA refugee camps.

UNRWA’s official site, UNRWA.org, reports that UNRWA  allocates 58% of its $1.5 billion budget to education, whose focus is the  “right of return” to villages that existed before 1948.


A diplomat who attended the UNRWA donors conference described to the Bedein Centre how the upbeat atmosphere at the gathering turned sour, when UNRWA commissioner, Phillipe Lazarini, welcomed the renewal of US support cut off by US President Trump three years ago but announced that the US had not fulfilled its commitment to supply $135 million promised to UNRWA by the US in April.

The reason: UNRWA did not fulfil commitments promised by the US: To revamp the UNRWA curriculum and provide proof of transparency.

In July, Lazzarini’s spokeswoman told a  Swiss media outlet that UNRWA would not change its school curriculum, which relies on texts from the Palestinian Ministry of Education.


Senator James Risch, the ranking Republican on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has led an effort to delay  US funds to UNRWA, before a change in the curriculum used by UNRWA and proof of transparency.

On Sept. 14, when reps of the Bedein Centre for Near East Policy Research made its annual visit to the Palestinian Ministry of Education to purchase new school textbooks that the PA would hand over to UNRWA for the new school year, the message they got was that UNRWA did not have funds this year to pay the cost of printing this year’s textbooks, so Qatar will now foot the bill, and  PA texts for UNRWA will instead be printed in Jordan.

Such a development gives Israel and the representatives of the donor nations the opportunity to examine objectionable PA/UNRWA school books at the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and Israel before these texts are delivered to UNRWA.

This is an opportune time for the US Congress and all donor nations to hold UNRWA accountable.

David Bedein is the Director of the Bedein Centre for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem

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