Japan announces over $30 million in aid to Palestinians: report
SAID KHATIB (AFP)
Japan on Thursday announced it will contribute over $30 million to projects serving Palestinians, mainly through United Nations (UN) organizations and international aid groups, according to Palestinian Ma'an news agency.
According to a statement from the Representative Office of Japan to Palestine, the new contribution for 2019 will be provided to all allocated areas by the end of the month, including the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA), the international body dedicated exclusively to addressing the needs of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Middle East at large.
The majority of the funds ($17.7 million) will go to UNRWA, mainly to be used for humanitarian assistance in impoverished, Hamas-run Gaza.
Over $5 million will be given to Palestinians living in Lebanon and Syria.
An additional $3.3 million is allocated for solar energy installation to address the energy crisis reeking havoc on Gaza’s civilian infrastructure in recent years.
The rest of the funds will go towards supporting partnerships and projects with both local and Japanese non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“The Government of Japan is strongly committed to supporting the two-state solution through those humanitarian and developmental projects,” the statement read.
It also noted that since 1993, Japan has contributed roughly $1.9 billion to development projects in the Palestinian territories.
UNRWA, the second biggest employer of the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian Authorities, was meant to be a temporary body to assist Palestinians fleeing their homes during the war surrounding Israel's establishment.
It has since endured as body with the sole purpose of catering to the needs of Palestinian refugees and the subsequent generations until a political solution to the conflict is reached.
Israel has long criticized the agency's existence, arguing it perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by offering refugee status to fourth and fifth generation descendants of legitimate Palestinian refugees.
In 1973, Japan began its active membership in UNRWA’s advisory board, which helps the UNRWA Commissioner-General in executing the organization’s mission.
In May, Japan announced an aid package of $10 million to UNRWA to support Palestinian refugees in Syria, where years of conflict have spawned an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
In 2017, Japan donated a total of about $43.5 million to the Palestinian aid agency.
In mid-January, the US announced it would reduce its annual support to UNRWA from $350 million to $60 million as a means of pressuring Palestinian factions to participate in negotiations with Israel.
According to UNRWA, US aid comprised approximately one third of the agency’s budget before the cut was enacted.
Japan’s foreign ministry has previously commented on Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, saying in August that the construction of some 1,000 housing units was “in violation of international law and Japan has repeatedly called upon to Government of Israel to fully freeze settlement activities.”
The West Bank, annexed by Israel during the war of 1967, is not recognized as legal Israeli territory by most of the international community.
Japan has been a prominent voice in international bodies aiming to develop the Palestinian economy and society at large and has funded various projects targeting the most vulnerable sectors in Gaza and the West Bank.
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