The Biden administration is insisting on substantial reforms at a United Nations aid organization operating in Gaza before considering the resumption of funding, according to statements from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday.
The suspension of funds, initiated by major donors like the U.S. and Germany, followed Israel’s allegations that certain members of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) were involved in abductions and killings during an attack.
Thomas-Greenfield’s comments signify a firm stance against the swift reactivation of funding and also mark a noteworthy call for structural changes within UNRWA from a Biden administration official.
Speaking after being briefed on the situation in the Middle East, Thomas-Greenfield emphasized the necessity of scrutinizing how the organization operates in Gaza, its staff management practices, and the immediate accountability of individuals implicated in criminal acts. The focus is on ensuring that UNRWA can uphold its vital operations.
Over the past three years, the U.S. government has contributed nearly $1 billion to UNRWA, including a substantial sum of $296 million in 2023 alone. UNRWA has a global workforce of around 30,000 individuals, with 13,000 stationed in Gaza.
A spokesperson for UNRWA conveyed to Reuters the agency’s predicament, stating that it would be unable to sustain its activities beyond February if funding remains suspended. The timeline for UNRWA’s internal investigation into the conduct of its staffers remains uncertain.
Thomas-Greenfield’s remarks contrast with the appeals from progressive lawmakers and humanitarian aid organizations, urging the Biden administration to promptly resume funding.
The stark demands for structural changes within UNRWA highlight the seriousness with which the Biden administration views the allegations and its commitment to ensuring accountability before considering the restoration of financial support.