Funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and additional support for Gaza

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

Senator the Hon Penny Wong

Leader of the Government in the Senate

Minister for Foreign Affairs

The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

Media contact

(02) 6277 7840

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15 March 2024

Australia will lift its temporary pause on funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), following steps to strengthen the integrity of UNRWA operations.

The decision to pause an additional $6 million in funding was taken after serious allegations were made, resulting in UNRWA’s dismissal of staff alleged to have been involved in the Hamas terrorist attacks of 7 October.

The nature of the allegations warranted an immediate and appropriate response.  

The Australian Government has been working with a group of donor countries and with UNRWA on the shared objective of ensuring the integrity of UNRWA’s operations, rebuilding confidence and ensuring aid flows to Gazans in desperate need.

Australia and our partners welcome the decisive actions from UNRWA and the UN Secretary General António Guterres to strengthen the integrity of operations. This includes the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services’ investigation of the allegations, and the independent review into UNRWA and the principle of neutrality, led by former French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna. 

We welcome UNRWA’s immediate work to deliver an action plan for donors, including Australia. The plan includes strengthened internal controls to ensure its neutrality, including rigorous requirements of staff. 

We see this as an ongoing process of diligence and vigilance.

In disbursing the $6 million to UNRWA’s flash appeal, Australia is finalising an updated funding agreement that will include stringent conditions such as guarantees of staff neutrality, and confidence in supply chains.

These steps provide the necessary confidence that the $6 million in urgent humanitarian funding to be released will go directly to those in need, satisfying Australia’s rigorous humanitarian controls, sanctions and legal requirements.  

Australia’s decision is in line with steps taken by Canada, Sweden and the EU. It is expected that more countries that have paused will take a similar approach.

UNRWA must continue to do all it can to ensure the highest standards of governance and accountability are met, as its work is vital. There can be no tolerance for members of terrorist organisations working for UNRWA.

Only UNRWA has the infrastructure to receive and distribute aid on the scale needed right now in Gaza. We urge Israel to recognise its mandate and work transparently to support its integrity.

In resuming funding, the Government is responding to a humanitarian situation in Gaza which is dire, and only worsening.

More than 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced, most living in crowded and unsanitary conditions. Access to health care and food is limited; the risk of widespread famine is growing. Women and children are facing the most acute impacts, but the suffering is widespread and threatens to have enduring health effects.

Relief agencies have briefed the Australian Government on large stocks of food outside Gaza’s borders, but that there is no way to move it across the border into Gaza and deliver it at scale without Israel’s cooperation.

To address the urgent need, Australia will also support efforts by Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to assist with the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.

A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster will deliver a supply of 140 Australian Defence Force (ADF) aerial delivery parachutes for use in humanitarian assistance airdrops by Jordan and the UAE.

The Australian Government will also provide an additional $4 million to UNICEF to provide urgent services, including for women and children, and $2 million to the new mechanism of the UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, to facilitate expanded humanitarian access into Gaza.

This support is in addition to more than $46 million committed by the Australian Government towards humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the Hamas-Israel conflict, bringing the total to $52.5 million.

Australia reiterates our call for an immediate and enduring humanitarian ceasefire that will enable unconditional release of hostages, and the urgent humanitarian relief that is needed.

Quotes attributable to Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Richard Marles, MP:

“Australia remains deeply concerned about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. We are pleased to support the efforts of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to provide crucial humanitarian aid to civilians through airdrops.”

“We continue to call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access for humanitarian supplies to enable lifesaving support for the civilians in Gaza.”

Quotes attributable to Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong: 

“The Australian Government will work with UNRWA on an ongoing basis to ensure its integrity and neutrality are beyond reproach.

“The additional assistance provided, including support for airdrops, is recognition that we need to pursue all avenues to address the suffering in Gaza.

“Only UNRWA has the infrastructure to receive and distribute aid on the scale needed right now in Gaza. But aid can only reach the civilian population at scale if Israel lets it into Gaza. Australia implores Israel to allow this to happen.

Quotes attributable to Minister for International Development, the Hon Pat Conroy MP:

“The need for immediate humanitarian assistance in Gaza is undeniable. We continue to call on Israel to allow full and unfettered access to help those most in need. 

“The release of funding for UNRWA, with additional assurances, backs in Australia’s longstanding support for the organisation, recognising its unique position and capability in the region.

“UNRWA does lifesaving work. That is why successive Australian Governments have funded it since 1951, and it is why the Albanese Government doubled its core funding to UNRWA to $20 million.”

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Minister Marles’ Office: 02 6277 7800 or

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