An Open Letter to the Commissioner-General of UNRWA:
Addressing the chronic budget crisis is not by transferring UNRWA's responsibilities to other UN or international agencies!
Mr. Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA,
We, the political parties and factions in the Bethlehem Governorate, the Global Palestinian Refugee Network, and the Palestinian civil society organizations and grassroots movements in the Bethlehem camps, address you through this open letter to inform you:
- Your approach in dealing with the UNRWA budget crisis represents a serious breach of your authority, and a fundamental violation of the rights of the Palestinian refugees and their cause in its political and legal dimensions. Assigning any of UNRWA's responsibilities to any party, or appointing an agency other than UNRWA to carry out UNRWA's responsibilities, constitutes a change in UNRWA's mandate which is the exclusive authority of the United Nations General Assembly. When the idea of expanding UNRWA's partnerships with other UN agencies and international non-government organizations becomes a project to shirk responsibilities, this constitutes an actual implementation of the strategy of thwarting and disrupting UNRWA followed by some countries and parties complicit with Israeli illegal policies and practices. We reject this approach and we call for resistance to this strategy to disrupt UNRWA, which is based on two main pillars. The first pillar is the transfer of UNRWA's responsibilities to the host countries, and/or UN agencies and international organizations, and/or the non-governmental organizations, bodies and committees operating in the areas of refuge. Second, ending the political dimension from the Palestinian refugee issue and limiting it to humanitarian needs, means exempting Israel from its responsibilities as embodied in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948.
- The historically applied cooperation between UNRWA and other UN agencies should not turn into a transfer of responsibility for providing services on behalf of UNRWA. The formation of the Education Expert Advisory Group between UNRWA, UNESCO and the World Bank constitutes a violation of the voice and will of the Palestinian refugees. Your insistence on implementing this policy despite the official, factional, civil and popular Palestinian rejection means your complicity in the strategy of thwarting and disrupting UNRWA. On the one hand, this involvement constitutes a breach of your responsibilities and a violation of the principle of neutrality. On the other hand, it serves the political interests of countries seeking to liquidate UNRWA and the refugee issue. Furthermore, this will not resolve the UNRWA budget crisis.
- The UNRWA financial crisis should be addressed through the establishment of a UN mechanism to finance the core UNRWA services. This mechanism should be based on establishing mandatory annual contributions provided by member states to UNRWA, as decided by the General Assembly. Moreover, it is possible to continue to utilize the voluntary contributions of states to cover additional vital programs and emergency interventions.
Accordingly, note that your approach is rejected and condemned, and that continuing with it threatens the work and existence of UNRWA and the rights of refugees, something we will not allow at all.