Three Reasons Why the United States Should Defund the U.N. Palestinian Refugee Program

Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman Smith, and Subcommittee members, thank you for the opportunity to submit written comments about the EMP threat to our nation’s electric grids. I am David Grantham, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA). We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

American taxpayer money spent on U.N. programs is often wasted, and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is a prime example. The United States remains the largest contributor to the United Nations, funding 22 percent of the organization’s 2015 budget. The United States is also the single largest donor to UNRWA, paying approximately $380 million toward a nearly $1 billion budget in 2015.

UNRWA Has Failed Its Mandate. Over the past 66 years, despite billions of dollars in aid, there has been little improvement in the lives of Palestinians under UNRWA’s care. The United Nations set up UNRWA in 1950 to provide relief services for Palestinian Arabs displaced after the 1948 war between the new state of Israel and its Arab neighbors. The organization was intended to provide temporary social services only to Palestinian Arab refugees and only until they could be integrated into the countries that sheltered them. UNRWA has instead grown into a near-permanent refugee industry. Its substandard education, health care and social services have left nearly 5 million Palestinian Arabs in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank with little hope of improving their lives. Consider:

  • Some 65 percent of Palestinian refugees live in poverty, which worsened for some in Gaza after Israel’s withdraw in 2005.
  • The refugee infant mortality rate stands at nearly 22 percent.
  • Unemployment in Gaza reached nearly 30 percent in 2011.

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