There can be no more delays and no more excuses – UK government must restore UNRWA funding following Colonna report

22nd April 2024- Today, the UN-commissioned report into the UN Relief and Works Agency came out. The independent report, dubbed the ‘Colonna report’, was requested by the UN in response to unsubstantiated allegations made by the Israeli government against UNRWA, the largest and most well-established aid provider in Gaza and across the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The Report Group, established on 5th February 2024, found that UNRWA has ‘robust’ frameworks to ensure compliance with humanitarian neutrality principles. It also found that the Israeli government failed to provide evidence for the baseless accusations they made against UNRWA. This is even more concerning, considering 16 countries suspended funding to UNRWA based on these allegations. In response to its publication, the UN Secretary General António Guterres said that he would accept the findings of the report. 

This decision to suspend funding occurred within the context of Palestinians in Gaza facing the threat of imminent famine, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. 1.1 million Palestinians face catastrophic food insecurity, the highest possible level. Cutting funding to the largest aid provider in this context is a reckless move that is likely to further exacerbate the impact of Israel’s efforts to restrict humanitarian aid. 

Whilst other countries restored UNRWA funding in the weeks that passed, the UK said that they were waiting on the findings of the report. Now that the report has finally emerged, it is clear that Israel’s claims were totally unsubstantiated. The UK government’s decision to withdraw funding based on such accusations is therefore reckless, especially within the context of imminent famine in Gaza. ICJP calls on the UK government to immediately restore funding to UNRWA, in order to ensure that it is not complicit in Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Established in 1948, UNRWA is the largest aid-provider for Palestinians. For the last ten years, at least 50% of UK government aid to Palestinians has gone through UNRWA. The suspension of funding has had a profound impact on UNRWA’s operational capabilities in Gaza. Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, warned on 4 February 2024 that the suspended funds amounted to almost half of the agency’s expected income in 2024, putting its very existence at risk.

Senior Public Affairs Officer Jonathan Purcell said:

“Even when a small handful of countries decided to halt UNRWA funding without any evidence supporting Israel’s allegations, they were already out of step with the rest of the world. But the UK took it a step further – when others restored funding, the UK decided to delay even further. 

Now the report is out and as expected, the findings show Israel’s claims are not backed up by any evidence. The UK should never have been making policy on the hoof with so many lives at stake, but at the very least, they must immediately restore funding based on this report. There can be no more delays and no more excuses.’


Notes to Editors:

  1. The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law.
  2. For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, please contact the ICJP news desk at [email protected]
  3. Josep Borrell, 4th February 2024, Defunding UNRWA would be both disproportionate and dangerous, European External Action Service
  4. Reuters article on Colonna report.
  5.  See, also, decisions to resume funding by CanadaSwedenAustralia, and the EU.