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Statement on UNRWA funding

The Sydney Peace Foundation urges the Australian Government to immediately restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the main lifeline for humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza. 

The UN and other aid organisations have united to warn of “catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza” if donor countries do not resume funding to UNRWA.

In the past four months, more than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza with over 65,000 injured and over 1.7 million Palestinians internally displaced. Over 152 UNRWA staff have been killed and 145 UNRWA facilities damaged by Israeli military strikes.

Australia paused funding following allegations that up to 12 of the agency’s 13,000 staff were involved in the Hamas attacks on October 7, 2023. UNRWA is conducting an investigation into the allegations and has stood down several employees who were alleged to have engaged in misconduct.

The Sydney Peace Foundation recognises UNRWA’s vital role in supporting Palestinians in desperate need as the only entity with the capacity to deliver humanitarian aid to more than two million people in the besieged territory. The Australian Government also recognised this role when it announced an additional $6 million in funding to UNRWA on 16 January, just two weeks ago.

Australia announced its freeze in funding to the UN agency on 27 January, immediately following the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order that Israel abide by six provisional measures. Among these, the court ordered Israel to take all possible measures to prevent genocidal acts, to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to genocide, and to take immediate and effective steps to ensure the provision of basic services and humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.

The Sydney Peace Foundation joins with others in calling for the Australian Government to ensure the historic ICJ ruling, focussing on serious breaches of international law under the Genocide Convention by the State of Israel, is respected and upheld.

The Sydney Peace Foundation acknowledges the conflict has been driven by extremists on both sides, but we are of the firm belief that ordinary Israeli and Palestinian peoples have the same dream: living in peace and security.

Any solution to this conflict starts with an immediate and sustainable ceasefire, the release of hostages held by Hamas and an end to the siege on Gaza.