UNRWA funding cuts violate the Genocide Convention, says Global Conscience

Parties and organisations are pleading for continued support for UNRWA. Picture: Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP

Parties and organisations are pleading for continued support for UNRWA. Picture: Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP

Published Jan 30, 2024


Scores of intellectuals from the Supporters of the Declaration of Concern and Conscience (Global Conscience) have condemned the cutting of funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by a number of Western countries.

“By starving UNWRA of funds for essential humanitarian work in the war-torn Gaza Strip, these Western states are condemning Gazans to slow and brutal death through starvation and disease. This is an act of collective punishment and a clear violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948, ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part’,” said the group.

The move, which met with condemnation and criticism from many, was made only a day after the International Court of Justice issued an interim order demanding that Israel cease its genocidal activities in Gaza.

The cutting of funding to UNRWA follows accusations against some of its staff for their alleged involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

According to Global Conscience, the decision to cut funding will "increase the misery“ of Palestinians in Gaza by "depriving them of all essential humanitarian aid.

UNRWA currently employs 30,000 Gazans, assisting 2.3 million. Global Conscience said this means the loss of funding will have “incalculable consequences” for the people of Gaza.

Supporters of the Declaration of Conscience and Concerns to stop genocide in Gaza met in London on January 27, 2024.

Hundreds attended the event and participants came from more than 25 countries. The emergency conference was responding to the genocidal catastrophe in the Gaza Strip and the recent interim order of the International Court of Justice.

The conference was convened by former Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu and Queen Mary University of London/Princeton University emeritus Professor of International Law Richard Falk.

It featured academic experts, former government and UN officials, as well as civil society and human rights activists.

In the day-long conference addressing the escalating crisis in the Gaza Strip, global leaders and representatives from various nations have issued a series of urgent initiatives aimed at alleviating the humanitarian situation and bringing about lasting peace in the region.

The primary demands that emerged from the discussions include an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the Gaza Strip. The need for unencumbered and expanded humanitarian aid to address widespread starvation and disease was also underscored.

Additionally, the conference called for the organisation of an international humanitarian aid convoy, marked by the display of national flags, and the swift restoration of funding to UNWRA and Palestinian civil society.

To achieve these objectives, the conference proposed a multi-faceted approach. This includes the enforcement of a comprehensive arms embargo, heightened support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, the expansion of non-violent solidarity initiatives, the imposition of private and public economic sanctions, and a broadening of the academic and cultural boycott.

Furthermore, the conference outlined several critical measures, including the establishment of a Peoples’ Tribunal to investigate genocide in occupied Palestine.

It advocated for the exclusion of Israel from various international bodies, such as FIFA, the European Research Council, and the International Olympic Committee. Diplomatic actions were also on the table, including the downgrading and potential severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, steps to remove Israel from the UN General Assembly, and a call for the International Criminal Court to fulfil its obligations in investigating state crimes committed in Palestinian territories since 2014.

The recommendations extended to practical undertakings as well. It was proposed that the implementation of the Palestinian right to self-determination be entrusted to the Palestinian people and their representatives. Additionally, there was a call for imposing upon Israel the essential reconstruction of all infrastructure, including residential housing, medical facilities, educational institutions, and the natural environment, including fresh water, agriculture, and arable land. Finally, the conference suggested placing a secondary burden on countries complicit in Israel's actions against Palestinians.