Middle East Peace, Security and Development and UNRWA

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 15th June 2022.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 4:00 pm, 15th June 2022

My friend, the hon. Gentleman has wise words. I am proud to be the MP for Rotherham and to be the Chair of the Select Committee on International Development. We have done a lot of inquiries on the subject of UN practice—on sexual exploitation by its staff, on misuse of funds and on racism in the sector. In such a vast organisation, of course there will be some rotten apples, but when those failings are highlighted it is inexcusable that they are not rooted out and safety measures put in so that such issues never happen again. As the hon. Member rightly says, one rotten apple taints the whole barrel. The UN does amazing work, but it is a big organisation and some people feel emboldened to make ridiculous personal comments that damage everybody.

The British Council, which recently signed a co-operation agreement with UNRWA, has granted the British Council’s international school awards to 80 UNRWA schools during the past two years, with many others having gained this recognition previously. The World Bank has confirmed that UNRWA students are on average one year ahead of their peers in public schools in the region. MOPAN—the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network—of which the UK is a member, recognises that UNRWA is a “competent, resilient and resolute” organisation.

UNRWA was created more than 70 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly. The UK voted in favour of its formation and has since approved the renewal of UNRWA’s mandate every three years. In establishing UNRWA, the UN General Assembly recognised that continued assistance for the relief of the Palestinian refugees was necessary

“to further conditions of peace and stability”.

UNRWA has carried out multitudes of positive work in the middle east in the absence of a political solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It has already educated more than 2 million children, and today creates significant livelihood opportunities through its construction projects throughout the middle east. UNRWA’s provision of human development services and humanitarian relief provides an anchor of stability in a troubled region.

Of the nearly 6 million Palestinian refugees living in the middle east, more than 2.6 million live in poverty. As the number of refugees falling into poverty continues to rise, UNRWA faces increased demands on its services. Refugees are increasingly reliant on UNRWA for the education of their children, their health and their livelihood.