BADIL Resource Center for Residency and Refugee Rights has issued its latest publication, entitled USA-UNRWA Framework Agreement: Assistance or Securitization?. This working paper elaborates on the problematic nature of the 2021-2022 “Framework for Cooperation Between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East [UNRWA] and the United States of America [USA].” This agreement announces the USA’s intention to restore its financial support for UNRWA, contributing $135.8 million for the fiscal year of 2021-2022. While this has been purported by the USA and UNRWA alike as a positive reaffirmation of the USA’s support for UNRWA’s work, BADIL reveals that the Agreement is a form of conditional funding. It enforces so-called counter-terrorism regulations which condition funding to UNRWA on whether it carries out vetting and screening mechanisms per the USA’s requirements.
The paper elaborates on how the USA-UNRWA Framework Agreement violates international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles, including humanity, impartiality, independence, and neutrality. It threatens these humanitarian principles under the guise of counter-terrorism regulations, thereby restricting impartial humanitarian action and preventing UNRWA from reaching Palestinian populations in need.
Importantly, the Israeli-influenced US pressure on UNRWA’s work would only allow it to service people in need if they adjust their targeting criteria or exclude certain groups of Palestine refugees from the list of beneficiaries. Eventually, this alters the status of Palestine refugees eligible for UNRWA’s assistance and programs.
The paper further explains that the USA-UNRWA Framework Agreement is attempting to unlawfully change UNRWA’s operational mandate without going through the legal mechanism of approval by the United Nations General Assembly. It is thus in violation of public international law regulations since it alters the Agency’s mandate and circumvents the appropriate decision-making procedures.
Additionally, the USA-UNRWA Framework Agreement has serious human rights implications for both UNRWA’s employees and beneficiaries, including freedom of expression and right to education. The Agreement obliges UNRWA to modify the Palestinian curriculum used in its schools that service Palestine refugees in a way that effectively neutralizes the curriculum of any national and Palestinian content, and hence decontextualizes the Palestinian curriculum.
Accordingly, the paper concludes that the Framework Agreement, while providing financial assistance for UNRWA’s operations, is profoundly unlawful and politically-motivated. Its ultimate aim is to serve Israel’s interests in liquidating the Palestinian refugee question without granting Palestinian refugees their enshrined rights.
Considering the Agreement’s unlawfulness and political nature, BADIL calls on UNRWA to terminate the Agreement and for the international community to increase its core funding to UNRWA to protect the Agency from political blackmailing in the form of conditional funding.