x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UN urges Arab nations to follow UAE lead in Palestinian relief

Sheikh Khalifa thanked for increasing the country's funding for refugees as Emirates pledges extra $2.5m

NEW YORK // Arab nations should follow the lead of the UAE and donate more money for Palestinian refugees, a United Nations official says. Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner general for the UN's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said the organisation's coffers were "totally exhausted". She thanked Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE, for increasing the country's funding to the agency. This month, the Emirates pledged US$2.5 million (Dh9.2m), raising its contribution for the year to $3.5m.

"I particularly want to appeal to Gulf donors to follow the example of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed," said Ms AbuZayd."I am personally extremely grateful to Sheikh Khalifa and the UAE." UNRWA officials have repeatedly called on members of the 22-nation Arab League to increase funding to the Palestinians, saying the agency needs cash to create jobs and provide health care and schooling. Some Arab charity chiefs maintain that Israel is chiefly responsible for Palestinian suffering, and the western governments who allowed the birth of the Jewish state should shoulder the financial burden.

Reiterating calls for more cash from Arab donors, Ms AbuZayd said the agency needed $323m next year or would have to "make painful cuts" to services. "I want to make a special appeal to Arab countries to help us avoid this situation," she said. "In 2009, Arab countries have contributed only one per cent to our regular budget. We would like them to contribute 7.8 per cent, which is the target set by the Arab League itself, based on what Arab countries used to contribute 20 years ago.

"Some Arab donors have not increased their contributions for over a decade, during which time refugee numbers have gone up by half and costs have more than doubled." The UAE's total pledge constitutes the largest annual contribution by an Arab donor to UNRWA's regular budget in the past 20 years. The agency, which is funded almost entirely by contributions from UN members, assists 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.