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Why is Sweden’s policy to UNRWA important?

Sweden is the 4th largest donor to UNRWA, at $60 million

https://www.unrwa.org/how-you-can-help/government-partners/funding-trends

Sweden,  together with Jordan, co-chaired the UNRWA donors conference on November 15, 2021.

Sweden has signed new agreements to oversee their funds to UNRWA,  referred to in this letter from the Swedish foreign ministry.

From: UD MK Brevsvar <ud.mk.brevsvar@gov.se>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2021 at 15:06

The Swedish Foreign MInister spokesperson mentions “the strategy of cooperation with UNRWA for the period of 2020-2023” which is to be found in the following link (from the Foreign Ministry) 191217 UNRWA Strategi för svenskt samarbete med UNRWA (docx) (government.se)

The document and is similar to the framework agreement (memo of understanding) between the US and UNRWA.

https://www.state.gov/2021-2022-u-s-unrwa-framework-for-cooperation/

It is interesting to mention what is said about education in this document:

UNRWA’s work to give children a quality, equitable education is important for the Government’s objective on equitable and inclusive education of high quality at all levels for girls and boys, women and men. UNRWA’s activities in this area are also relevant to the Government’s objective to highlight in particular the importance and the role of 8 Gender Equality Strategy 2016–21 9 Gender Equality Strategy 2016–21 6 (12) education in conflict and post-conflict situations and humanitarian crises. Particular attention will be paid to girls and marginalised groups, including children with varying functional abilities. UNRWA’s framework for teaching makes clear that it should reflect the UN’s fundamental values and principles, such as respect for human rights, tolerance of difference and peaceful conflict management. UNRWA follows national school curricula in host countries, but it has the possibility to use additional educational programmes to supplement its teaching when national curricula fall short. In this regard, UNRWA also plays a key role in the Government’s work to combat extremism and intolerance.”

The “strategy of cooperation” also mentions the corruption and misconduct investigation from 2019 which means that UNRWA will be monitored closely:

“Based on the organisational assessment and preliminary conclusions on measures as a result of OIOS’s investigation, Sweden will give particular priority to the following areas concerning the organisation’s working methods. Focusing on reform, risk management, transparency, independent systems for internal controls, and anti-corruption: • UNRWA’s work for greater transparency and closer information exchange with donors concerning the organisation’s work, including in the follow-up of recommendations from internal and external audits and evaluations; • UNRWA’s work to combat corruption and power abuse, in which UNRWA’s DIOS is given a stronger position, improved protection for whistleblowers and the requisite resources; • UNRWA’s work on independent systems for accountability and transparency – including, but not exclusively, in relation to the organisation’s handling of the issue of sexual harassment and exploitation within UNRWA and its operations; and • UNRWA’s continued work to implement reforms, also in light of the OIOS investigation.”

(Embolding from us)

  1. TheSwedish Foreign Ministry  then mentions what was discussed on November 16th in Brussels. A document about this was also uploaded on the website of the foreign ministry: co-chairs-statement-of-international-ministerial-conference-in-support-of-unrwa.pdf (government.se)

This graph speaks for itself:

“The participants agreed on the vital importance to break the vicious cycle of financial crises of UNRWA, which jeopardises the rights of Palestinian refugees to live in dignity.”

Furthermore, the document says:

“The participants expressed their support for UNRWA and their willingness to support the Agency by participating in shielding it from sustained political attacks that seek to question its integrity and purpose.”

.

  1. Swedish Foreign Ministry also  mentions the following:

“The humanitarian principles and UN principles such as human rights, non-discrimination and  non-violence is a prerequisite for UNRWA to be able to carry out its humanitarian mission. The recent introduction of an online alearning platform, facilitating the systematic vetting of education materials, is only one recent example of the continuous work in this area.”

What kind of online learning platfrom is she alking about and how are ducation materials being vetted?

  1. Radicalizationand education:
    “Catering for the rights, humanitarian needs and dignity of the Palestine refugees is the best way to prevent radicalization. Education is especially important and we find that UNRWA is performing very well under very difficult circumstances.”

===================

This is the full context of the letter:

Thank you for your letter addressed to H.E. Ms. Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am employed at the Ministers Office and have been assigned to reply.

UNRWA’s neutrality and respect for UN values are paramount to the Government of Sweden. The importance of these issues is clearly stated in the current strategy for Sweden’s cooperation with UNRWA for the period 2020-2023 and followed up in our regular dialogue with UNRWA.

As a longstanding supporter of UNRWA, Sweden considers UNWRA’s activities to be in line with its mandate. UNRWA attaches a lot importance to the humanitarian principles, including neutrality, which was also discussed at the International Ministerial Conference on UNRWA in Brussels on 16 November. The humanitarian principles and UN principles such as human rights, non-discrimination and  non-violence is a prerequisite for UNRWA to be able to carry out its humanitarian mission. The recent introduction of an online learning platform, facilitating the systematic vetting of education materials, is only one recent example of the continuous work in this area.

UNRWA contributes to peace and stability in a troubled region. Catering for the rights, humanitarian needs and dignity of the Palestine refugees is the best way to prevent radicalization. Education is especially important and we find that UNRWA is performing very well under very difficult circumstances.

Swedish humanitarian assistance is channelled through trusted partners and is regularly audited and followed-up. It is guided by the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, and by the principles of good humanitarian donorship.

Best regards,

Sofia Kaeraa

Correspondence Coordinator

Ministers Office

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

———————-

 LETTER SENT FROM THE BEDEIN CENTER TO THE SWEDISH GOV’T

08/11/2021

Your Excellency, The Hon. Ann Linde, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the

Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs

The context of this communication is that the Bedein Center for Near East Policy research focuses on UNRWA, with the hope that the 5.3 million refugees who benefit from UNRWA services will one day reach an appropriate humanitarian solution to their plight.

It is a positive development that the UNRWA donor countries will be gathering in Brussels next week. UNRWA donors can perform a constructive role in providing the best of service to the Palestinian refugee population.

Since the international donor conference will deal with all UNRWA policies, we would like to know if Sweden will raise the following six policy questions:

Six Policy Challenges, to Guide UNRWA Policy Reform – Israel Behind the News

  • Will Sweden ask that the new UNRWA curriculum, which incorporates principles of Jihad, martyrdom and “right of return” by force of arms be cancelled in UN schools which are supposed to advance the UNRWA slogan of “Peace starts here”? The UNRWA curriculum
  • Will your government ask that paramilitary training is ceased in all UNRWA schools which should demonstrate commitment to UN principles for “peace education”? Paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools
  • Will your government insist that UNRWA dismiss employees who are affiliated with Hamas in accordance with laws in Western nations, which forbid aid to any agency that employs members of a terrorist organization? Insist that UNRWA dismiss employees who are affiliated with Hamas
  • Will your government insist that UNRWA cancel its contract with “youth ambassador” Mohammad Assaf who travels the world encouraging violence? Would this not be the appropriate time for donor nations to ask that UNRWA cancel that contract with a harbinger of war? 
  • Will your government ask for an audit of donor funds that flow to UNRWA? This would address widespread documented reports of wasted resources, duplicity of services and the undesired flow of cash to Gaza-based terror groups, which gained control over UNRWA operations in Gaza over the past 18 years.
  • Will your government introduce UNHCR standards to UNRWA in order to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees, after 67 years? Current UNRWA policy is that refugee resettlement would interfere with the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948.

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