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Parliament committees approve Swiss UNRWA payment

children beside unrwa logo
Palestinian children outside an UNRWA school in Sidon, Lebanon. Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

The foreign affairs committees of the Swiss parliament have backed – with conditions – the government’s plan to donate CHF10 million ($11.2 million) to the embattled UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

On Friday the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate accepted the donation by 7 votes to 5, after the House of Representative’s committee did the same a week ago. Both committees are calling for the money to be used exclusively for urgent needs.

At the beginning of May, the government decided to provide CHF10 million to alleviate the most urgent needs of the suffering population in Gaza. UNRWA’s emergency appeal for Gaza at the end of April called for some CHF1 billion.

+ Read more: the allegations upending UNRWA’s work in Gaza

A motion to instead give the money to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN World Food Program was rejected by the Senate committee. Neither of the two organisations have enough staff on the ground to make a real difference; only UNRWA is equipped to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population in Gaza, a majority of the committee said.

The minority argued that the Palestinian relief organization had a fundamental problem of trust. Other organisations were just as capable of helping in the Gaza Strip, they said.

Several states temporarily suspended payments to UNRWA in January, after accusations that the aid organisation’s schools in the Palestinian territories incite hatred against Israel and glorify terrorist attacks. Israel’s government also claimed that several UNRWA employees were involved in the Hamas massacre of October 7, 2023.

+ The “Colonna report” and its impact on UNRWA’s reputation

A UN investigation found that UNRWA was, on the whole, maintaining its neutrality well, but that improvements were needed. According to the Swiss government, the decision to release fresh funding for UNRWA was based on an analysis of the UN report and on consultations with other donors.

Many other states had resumed payments by the time of the Swiss decision. Parliament however requested that the foreign affairs committees be first consulted before the money was released.

The CHF10 million for UNRWA comes on top of aid payments of CHF56.2 million approved by ministers in April for the humanitarian needs of countries in the Middle East.

Adapted from German by DeepL/dos

This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo.ch we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles.

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