US Congresswoman Barbara Lee welcomes return of UNRWA aid
US Congresswoman Barbara Lee welcomed on Sunday the announcement that the United States will resume funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which was interrupted under the administration of former President Donald Trump.
"Today’s announcement is a long-overdue step toward resuming positive US relations with the Palestinian people and re-establishing the United States as a credible and constructive leader in the region," Lee said in a press statement.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would resume contributions to UNRWA, whose budget had been significantly slashed when Trump ended all American contributions to the organisation in 2018.
The move, Lee said, “was both needlessly cruel and dangerously impulsive” and “weakened American credibility on the world stage and further undercut the goal of a two-state solution.”
“I look forward to working with the Department of State and USAID to ensure that we continue to provide critically-needed humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, in addition to the Congressionally-directed Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2021 economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," she said.
UNRWA runs one of the largest cash assistance programmes in the world, helping Palestinian refugees meet part of their humanitarian needs. To address food insecurity, UNRWA provides emergency assistance to just over one million Palestine refugees, or about 75 per cent of all Palestine refugees, according to the organisation.
The Trump administration’s cuts were made under the false premise that Palestinian refugees derive their refugee status from UNRWA, rather than from international law.
The administration of current president Joe Biden had announced in April that it would resume assistance to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency, nearly all of which had been eliminated.
Blinken maintained that US support to the Palestinians is key to advancing American interests in the region.
“It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability. It also aligns with the values and interests of our allies and partners,” he said.