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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

World Donations to "Palestinian Refugees" Declining

This AFP article includes some interesting facts and figures, although it never explains its source: the Largest-Ever Conference on "Palestine Refugees" which opened in Geneva yesterday, with 67 countries and 34 international organizations in attendance.

  • "Palestinian refugees" numbered -according to this account- 950,000 in 1950, and now are approximately 4 million. One third are under age 14.

  • The number of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank who rely on the UNRWA for food aid has risen almost ten-fold since September 2000: from 130,000 to 1.1 million.

  • The UNRWA received less than half of its $196 million emergency funding last year, and also "fell short of target" on the overall budget of $438 million.

  • The USA funded 25% of the budget, about $110 million, and the EU and west European countries funded about 55%.

Different countries contribute . . . differently:
On Tuesday, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund announced a 2.5 million dollars (two million euros) contribution to some UNRWA financial programmes, and there was little sign of further funding expected from Gulf [i.e. Arab] countries.

Switzerland promised about two million Swiss francs (1.6 million dollars), Canada, Australia and New Zealand also came up with additional cash, and Japan announced that about five million extra dollars were in the pipeline.

Officials from some European countries said they were ready to grant new money, but largely declined to say how much.

The United States reiterated that it would only come up with more if it felt that "other countries are doing their share," US Assistant Secretary of State Arthur Dewey said.

Kofi Annan's message to the Conference stated
"This is far from the first time that the Palestine refugees have found themselves in adverse conditions. Hardship and uncertainty have been enduring features of their historical experience. Thankfully, they are a resourceful people, a quality that has helped them to sustain their communities in the face of persistent challenges and conflict."
He went on to enumerate the improvements in refugees' living conditions that were "realized by the end of the 1960s" -- but for some odd reason didn't speak of the amazing improvements in Palestinian health, education and economy during the time of Israeli occupation/administration of the terror-tories, 1967~1993. (For that, you have to read Karsh).

Annan fells all over himself, extolling the virtues of the refugees to potential donors at the Conference:
"The Palestine refugees have shown admirable resilience and a strong commitment to making a better life for themselves. As the overwhelming majority of the Agency’s teachers, doctors, social workers and other employees, they have also been the backbone of UNRWA’s enterprise. The dedication of the staff in the occupied Palestinian territory, who have kept operations going in the most difficult of circumstances – and nine of whom have been killed in the past three years – has been exceptional."

Funny, the AFP photo which accompanies the article is of Palestinian refugees in Iraq.

Two Palestinian children walk through the Haifa
Palestinian refugee camp in Baghdad. Four million
Palestinian refugees are at a 'crucial juncture'
following decades of dashed hopes and flagging aid
which might turn the increasingly young population
into 'gun-slinging militants', a senior UN official
warned.(AFP/Awad Awad)

Under Saddam, Palestinians in Iraq enjoyed special protection; when he was forced from power, local Iraqis drove the Palestinians from their homes.

More about Palestinian refugees in Iraq - from a PLO perspective - courtesy of McGill University Faculty of Arts.

NB: 100,000-120,000 Jews fled Iraq in 1950-51.
El-Balad, an Arab daily paper in the Jordan-held "old city" of Jerusalem, stressed the value to the Arabs of the Jews' flight from Iraq, since "roughly 120,000" Jewish refugees had fled Baghdad for Israel, leaving all of their goods and homes behind them 5 Salah Jabr, former Prime Minister of Iraq and leader of Iraq's National Socialist Party had stated that
the emigration of 120,000 Jews from Iraq to Israel is beneficial to Iraq and to the Palestinian Arabs because it makes possible the entry into Iraq of a similar number of Arab refugees and their occupation of the Jewish houses there.

UPDATE 06/09/04: "It was not a pledging conference, but several delegations pledged $10.5 million to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees or UNRWA. The head of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, calls the conference a great success. He says he is confident that considerable amounts of money will be forthcoming (VOA).