Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Eighth Report





COM(01) 741

Draft Council Decision on the conclusion of an exchange of letters between the European Community and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) concerning additional funding in 2001 under the current EC-UNRWA Convention for the years 1999-2001.

Legal base:

Article 181 EC; consultation



International Development

Basis of consideration:

Minister's letter of 14 March 2002 (received on 2 May)

Previous Committee Report:

HC 152-xix (2001-02), paragraph 9 (13 February 2002)

Discussed in Council:

19 December 2001

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:




  5.1  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is responsible for providing basic health, education, and social services to 3.9 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

  5.2  Since 1972 the EU and UNRWA have signed ten conventions governing the EC contribution. Each convention has:

set out the contribution to the regular budget, which covers education, health and relief and social services programmes, for the forthcoming three year period; and

allowed for the annual negotiation of the contribution to the food aid budget.

The draft Council Decision

  5.3  The Commission proposed in early December that the EC should make an additional contribution, of 15 million, to the current funding under the 10th EC-UNRWA Convention. This was in response to a serious financing gap in 2001 in UNRWA's budget, due to a shortfall in income and the crisis in the area, which was placing increased burdens on the Agency. The Council approved the proposal on 19 December 2001. The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short) apologised, explaining that it had been rushed through the Council and the speed with which it was handled had led to a breakdown in communications. The document did not reach her department until 3 January.

  5.4  When the Committee considered the proposal on 13 February, it asked the Secretary of State if she could account for the sudden rush in December to speed this top-up through the Council. We asked her if she could tell us what steps could be taken to try to ensure that the budget deficit of UNRWA did not continue to be a perennial problem. We said that it would be helpful if, in her reply, she could provide us with fuller information on the identities of other donors and their contributions, and on how it could be ensured that UNRWA had a degree of certainty about the income it could expect.

The Minister's letter

  5.5  The Minister says:

"As you rightly identify a key issue is to seek ways to address the perennial funding gap between UNRWA's agreed General Fund budget and voluntary contributions. Although the gap in 2001 eventually turned out to be the lowest for 10 years, there is still some way to go to give UNRWA better financial security. We will explore further with UNRWA and other donors how we can consolidate these gains, and move towards a fully funded scenario. The recent serious escalation in the conflict does regrettably put even more strain on UNRWA's resources, and on the international community's ability to respond to spiralling needs.

"As far as events last year are concerned, you are right that there was a rush in December. However this was not because the Commission were waiting to see what their other donors would provide but instead because it was only at this point that they would know how much money was unspent on other budget lines and available to be diverted to UNRWA".

  5.6  The Minister encloses a list of donors and their contributions for the year 2000, the latest available.


  5.7  We ask the Minister elsewhere in this Report whether any assessments are yet being made of what further contributions to UNRWA are likely to be needed in the near future to cater for the effects on the camps of the escalation in destruction since February this year when the sums for the new EC/UNRWA Convention were proposed.[10]

  5.8  We thank the Minister for her response to the questions we put to her on this Council Decision and now clear the document.


10  (23420) - ; see paragraph 6. Back

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