Jewish organisations regret Belgium's decision to maintain UNRWA funding

The Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organisations in Belgium (CCOJB) has criticised the federal government's decision not to suspend funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for the time being.

"Unlike the major democracies in Europe and the world, Belgium does not believe that the extreme seriousness of the allegations against UNRWA, which has been widely discredited, requires a suspension of funding," the CCOJB said in a press release on Wednesday evening.

It also highlights "the dissonance between the decision of Belgium, which holds the presidency of the EU Council, and the position of the European Commission, which has suspended its funding and called for an independent audit of UNRWA's operations".

Twelve countries, including the US, UK, Germany, Canada and Japan, have announced in recent days that they are suspending funding to UNRWA. The agency has been coordinating aid, education and healthcare for Palestinians for decades, including in Gaza, but also in Palestinian refugee camps in the region. However, according to Israel, at least 12 of its 30,000 regional staff were involved in the Hamas attack in Israel on 7 October.

'High humanitarian needs'

Belgium has not suspended funding for the time being "in view of the high humanitarian needs and the risk of famine in Gaza", Development minister Caroline Gennez said on Wednesday. The country intends to closely follow the announced internal UN investigation and demands that UNRWA be fully transparent and take measures to better vet its staff. Belgium also supports the European Commission's call for an external audit.

The federal government contributed 11.5 million euros to UNRWA last year, including 7 million for general operations and 4.5 million for specific projects.


CCOJB president Yves Oschinsky © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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Federal government will not suspend UNRWA funding pending investigation
The Belgian federal government will not suspend funding for the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) for the time being, he cabinet of Development Cooperation minister Caroline Gennez said on Wednesday afternoon. Belgium will await results from an investigation into possible links between members of UNRWA staff and the Palestinian extremist organisation Hamas.

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