India has increased its annual contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) from USD 1.5 million to USD 5 million from 2018-19 for a period of three years, the External Affairs Ministry said on Wednesday.
According to a ministry statement India made the announcement of this substantive increase in annual contribution at the extraordinary ministerial conference held in Rome on March 15 following a flash appeal made by the UNRWA, which is faced with a major funds crunch.
“This enhancement was made in the backdrop of the unprecedented financial crisis being faced by UNRWA, which has been delivering valuable public services to Palestine refugees around the world,” the statement said.
It also said that the four-fold increase in India’s contribution is based on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s commitment to enhance support to the UNRWA at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ministerial meeting on Palestine on September 19 last year.
It stated that this is also part of India’s enhanced engagement with Palestine, particularly in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Palestine on February 10, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister to the West Asian nation.
The UNRWA’s present predicament came about after US President Donald Trump last month withheld more than half of the US-pledged aid to the agency.
The White House informed the UNRWA of the dramatic funding cut, meaning it will receive approximately USD 60 million in US aid. The US has been UNRWA’s single largest donor for decades.
Trump last year unilaterally announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that his country’s embassy will be shifted to that city.
However, a majority of countries, including India, voted against Trump’s decision in the UN General Assembly in December last year.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had warned that the UNGA vote would have repercussions.