Canada and 10 other nations announced this week they will suspend funding for UNRWA, a UN agency that supports Palestinians, after Israel alleged some of its staff played a role in the Hamas attack last October.
The director of the agency said it terminated the suspected staff, but warned on Monday that it won’t be able to continue operations beyond February if support is not restored. Now, global affairs experts are worried Canada and the other nations’ decision to pause funding could have grave consequences for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Yves Fortier, former Canadian ambassador to the UN, appeared on CTV News Channel on Monday to discuss Canada’s decision and why he hopes it is only temporary.
“There are bad apples in every basket,” Fortier said in reference to the dozen UNRWA employees who are accused of aiding Hamas, in an agency with over more than 13,000 staff in the Gaza Strip.
“I visited the agency’s headquarters in Gaza Strip, they’re doing a lot of good vis-à-vis Palestinians who need, particularly at this moment, assistance and food and water.”
Japan and Austria were the latest countries to suspend funding for the UN agency. The 11 countries taking part in the pausing of funds account for more than 60 per cent of UNRWA’s funding, according to its website.
Global affairs analyst Michael Bociurkiw also appeared on CTV New Channel on Monday to discuss the updated list of nations pausing their funding, and how it can get worse for an organization that was already cash starved and underfunded.
“Hospitals, schools, psychosocial centres, sanitation, road clearing: (UNRWA) is a municipal government over there,” Bociurkiw said. “With the big percentage of the Gaza Strip population on the verge of starvation, this is not something that other UN agencies can fill the gap.”
On Monday, an Israeli document spelled out allegations against the dozen UN employees, claiming seven stormed into Israeli territory, including two who participated in abductions. The accusations come after years of tensions between Israel and the agency known as UNRWA over its work in Gaza, where it employs roughly 13,000 people.
Bociurkiw, a former communications chief in the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) East Jerusalem offices, said an interim solution needs to be found while an investigation runs its course, but the 11 countries’ decision is very bad timing.
When asked if he thought the freezing of funds is temporary, Bociurkiw said nations like Canada and Italy will likely reconsider.
But if U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump is elected this coming November, one of his first acts would be to cut funding to UNRWA and other agencies active in the Gaza Strip like the World Health Organization.
Fortier, who briefly served as president of the UN Security Council in 1989, said he personally regrets that Canada has joined nations like the U.S., the U.K. and Germany in suspending its funding for UNRWA, believing any decision should be withheld until Israel’s allegations have been investigated thoroughly.
“This will only injure more Palestinians. There’s been 26,000 Palestinians who have been killed since Oct. 7, so I believe countries should hold their fire until an investigation has been carried out, and the bad apples have been removed from the bushel.”
With files from The Associated Press