Statement on UNRWA

Statement by Norway’s minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Espen Barth Eide, on the UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The allegations that UN staff were involved in the horrific terror attack on October 7 are deeply concerning. Norway welcomes the investigation by UNRWA and expect full transparency from the organization. We have condemned the attack on October 7 in the strongest possible terms. The individuals involved in the attack must be brought to justice. We continue to call for the immediate release of all hostages held in Gaza. 

The situation in Gaza is catastrophic. 80 percent of the people in Gaza are displaced, many are sheltering in overcrowded schools. Thousands of civilians have been killed, including children, more than 150 UNRWA staff, as well as teachers, doctors, journalists and countless others who are not party to the conflict. There is a shortage of both food and water, and access to healthcare is deeply insufficient. UNRWA is a lifeline for almost 2 million people in Gaza.

Norway is a major donor to UNRWA. Currently, some countries have paused their aid to the Palestinian people through UNRWA in this situation. Norway has decided to continue its funding. While I share the concern over the very serious allegations against some UNRWA staff, I urge other donors to reflect on the wider consequences of cutting funding to UNRWA in this time of extreme humanitarian distress. We should not collectively punish millions of people.

We must distinguish between what individuals may have done and what UNRWA stands for. UNRWA has 30,000 staff across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. 13,000 of these work in Gaza to distribute aid, save lives and ensure the population’s essential needs and rights. The people of Gaza urgently need humanitarian assistance and must not pay the price for the actions of others.