Restoring UK Government funding of UNRWA

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) is supporting legal action initiated by Bindmans LLP, seeking a reversal of the Foreign Office’s 27th January 2024 decision to withdraw its funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

On behalf of a British-Palestinian client, whose family are all UNRWA-registered refugees, Bindmans have – as of the 25th March – issued a Pre-Action Protocol letter to the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), seeking the restoration of funding. Should the FCDO fail to withdraw its decision and refund UNRWA, the case will likely be taken to Judicial Review, seeking resolution to the claim in the High Court. The ICJP are supporting Bindmans’ case by providing evidence and financial backing to the claim.

The FCDO suspending funds for UNRWA just one day after the International Court of Justice’s ruling in South Africa v Israel found that Israel could plausibly be committing genocide, and well after UN experts first warned of the risk of famine in Gaza. The client’s family have all reported facing severe shortages of food, water, and essentials, and expert evidence states plainly that UNRWA is the only appropriate vehicle for delivery of such aid at the scale required.

The decision to withdraw funding from UNRWA was, the letter alleges, illogical, and reached without due consideration of the evidence available, of the UK’s international obligations, and of the FCDO’s decision making frameworks – including its Strategy for International Development.

It is also suggested that the decision may render the UK government complicit in Israel’s apparent breaches of the Genocide Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention. If, as is alleged, Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war in contravention of International Humanitarian Law, then the withdrawing of funds from UNRWA risks aiding or facilitating that act. In the upcoming Nicaragua v Germany case in the International Court of Justice, the defunding of UNRWA forms one of the grounds upon which Nicaragua is levelling the charge of complicity in genocide.

On behalf of the client, Bindmans are therefore seeking the immediate restoration of the UK’s funding for UNRWA, the agency which for the last ten years has delivered at least 50% of UK aid funding to Palestine, and the withdrawal of its 27th January decision.

This page will be updated as the case develops.

Press release

ICJP, 27th March 2024, Legal challenge to be launched against Foreign Office for UNRWA defunding decision

Bindmans, 27th March 2024, Pre-action letter issued challenging the UK’s suspension of funding to UN Relief Agency for Palestinians

Media Coverage

Arab News, 27th March 2024, Legal challenge launched against UK government over UNRWA funding suspension

Middle East Eye, 27th March 2024, UK faces mounting challenges on arms sales to Israel and Unrwa funding

The National, 27th March 2024, UK Government faces legal challenge over UNRWA funding pause