International Community Pledges $220 Million to PA
Representatives of 22 nations pledged their support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) Saturday, but the UN urged more action for refugees "in need of aid" in an "increasingly dire" situation, according to AFP.
The Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD) in Jakarta ended with Japan - one of the world's biggest donors to the PA - pledging $200 million, most in financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority and for infrastructure development.
CEAPAD is a Japanese initiative launched in Tokyo last year. This year's conference was co-chaired by Indonesia, the PA and Japan. Among attending nations were South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Brunei and Vietnam, while China's special envoy on the Middle East Issue Wu Sike also attended.
The CEAPAD participants reiterated in a joint statement their commitment to the ongoing Middle East peace process, with co-chairs Indonesia and Japan expressing hope for a two-state solution in the near future.
Fumio Kishida, current Foreign Minister for Japan, told the representatives that security in the Middle East was "by no means someone else's problem in a distant region" for Asian nations.
"I firmly believe participating countries share the common determination to assist in a Palestinian state-building that promises to bring about regional peace and stability," he said.
PA official Rami Hamdallah expressed gratitude to donor nations, but blamed Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria for "severely" hampering development.
"Sixty-two percent of all our land is still controlled by the Israeli authorities. This impedes any access we have to natural resources, and severely restricts our development," he claimed.
'Please Sir, May I have Some More?'
Despite the millions donated to the PA during the conference, the aid is not enough for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who claimed in a statement that more attention should be paid to "Palestinian refugees," describing "appalling conditions" in the Syrian camp Yarmouk.
"I have observed many conflicts in my career, but I have seldom encountered as much destruction, hunger, fear and despair as I saw in Yarmouk this week," UNRWA commissioner-general Filippo Grandi said, adding Yarmouk had become "a symbol of the tragedies accumulating for Palestinian refugees".
UNRWA estimates the funding needs for Palestinian Arabs to reach $1.5 billion in 2014. Last year's combined contributions to UNRWA by countries represented at CEAPAD, excluding Japan, amounted to $2 million.
Grandi urged Asian nations to increase their support for the UNRWA, which said it had delivered aid to five million Palestinian Arabs so far.
What is the UNRWA?
The UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinian Arab "refugees," were established in order to tackle the problem of "Palestinian refugees," and provides them with shelter, education, health and social services.
The organization provides medical care, education, food and clothing in 59 Palestinian "refugee camps" in the PA, Gaza, Jerusalem, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. About 23,000 people work for the UNRWA - most of them Palestinian Arabs and some known Hamas activists.
UNRWA's schools serve almost half a million Palestinian Arab students, according to a recent estimate. According to reports from UNRWA, the annual budget that the organization lays out for Palestinian Arab education in the refugee camps is estimated at half a billion dollars, and the primary sources of this financing are funds transferred from the UN, EU, US, UK, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany and Australia.
The call for extra aid to the organization surfaces less than a week after MK Yoni Chetboun (Jewish Home) held a special Knesset meeting with diplomats from over 40 countries over evidence that the group may be contributing to the PA and Gaza's ongoing incitement against Israel.
Chetboun urged participants to investigate the organization's actions carefully.
"The world must re-examine the transfer of funds to UNRWA," Chetboun noted. "It is unclear whether countries have an idea of what is done with the money they send."
"Whether it knows it or not, the UNRWA is undermining the original purpose for its involvement. Instead of providing welfare and aid to Palestinian refugees, it [the UNRWA] funds terror and anti-Israeli propaganda," he continued. "Is this what the West wants? I doubt it."