Palestinian Refugees Perspectives on Options for Sustainable Financing of UNRWA
In 2020, at the height of the United States Administration funding cuts and campaign against UNRWA, MAS invited the author to present a Background Paper to one of its regular Roundtable sessions entitled The Future of UNRWA in the face of Financial Challenges and Political Pressure.1The paper led to the establishment of an Expert Panel, with the support of Heinrich Boll Stiftung (Jordan and Palestine) and related workshops, which produced a series of further studies on specific elements in the search for alternative models and sources for the funding of UNRWA.2 A subsequent study, commissioned by MAS, also in 2022, was focussed on exploring Palestine refugee perspectives on the funding discussions in greater detail and its findings will also be incorporated into the paper, also presented publicly and discussed with stakeholders.3
This Background Paper is, in essence, a stock-taking exercise of the past three years of in-depth consultations between MAS, the experts who have been engaged and the relevant stakeholders – UNRWA, donors, Palestine refugees and Palestinian civil society. It synthesizes the papers and documents that were circulated and presented and updates them as relevant. It also reviews the observations made during these discussions and examines the conclusions drawn. The paper explores in greater depth and with the benefit of hindsight, some of the options that were highlighted in previous work. In particular, it focuses on the role of international financial institutions (IFIs), Islamic philanthropy, the Green Economy and the possible link between UNRWA funding and confiscated Palestine refugee assets.
Since the work of the MAS Expert Panel was completed in 2021, this Background Paper will also include an updating of other contributions since then, including two important new reports published in late 2022: the first commissioned by UNRWA, and the second by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.4 The main purpose of this paper is to reassert the Palestine refugee voice in discussions on future options regarding the financing of UNRWA.5