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More than 45,000 signatures in favour of federal funding for UNRWA

Protesters hold a banner during a pro Palestine demonstration in Bern, Switzerland, Saturday, January 6, 2024.
Switzerland continues to withhold its financial contribution of CHF20 million ($21.9 million) per year to the Palestinian Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) due to allegations of terrorism against several of its employees. © KEYSTONE / PETER KLAUNZER

Two petitions signed by around 45,000 people are calling on the Federal Council and parliament to secure funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The non-governmental organisation Amnesty International Switzerland submitted the petitions in Bern on Monday with a campaign entitled “Humanitarian Switzerland, where are you?”.

+ Switzerland to analyse UNRWA report before funding decision

The petitions call on Switzerland to “reflect on its humanitarian tradition and clearly stand on the side of international law”, as stated in the press release on Monday.

Switzerland continues to withhold its financial contribution of CHF20 million ($21.9 million) per year to UNRWA. This is due to allegations of terrorism against several of its employees in connection with the attacks by the radical Islamic group Hamas against Israel on October 7, 2023.

Meanwhile, the civilian population in the Gaza Strip is threatened by war and hunger, Amnesty Switzerland announced. This is despite the fact that the Israeli government has not yet provided any evidence for the serious allegations against UNRWA employees. Following Israel’s accusations, several states suspended funding for UNRWA. “This draconian decision has a catastrophic impact on the lives and survival of millions of people,” said Amnesty Switzerland.

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Inside Geneva: what’s the future of UNRWA?

This content was published on Israel has accused the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) of being involved in the October 7 attacks. We spoke to the UNRWA head to find out more.

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The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives is expected to decide on the funding of the aid organisation at the beginning of the week. As part of its review of the 2024 budget, the Federal Assembly decided to suspend Swiss aid. The government announced last week that it would make a decision “at a later date”.

Amnesty continues to call on Switzerland to do everything possible to ensure that the recently adopted United Nations Security Council resolution – which calls for an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and humanitarian aid for Gaza – is implemented.

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Adapted from German by DeepL/dkk/mga

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