Report: UN, WHO coronavirus relief used for terror-linked NGOs in Palestinian areas

World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: U.S. Mission Geneva/Eric Bridiers via Flickr.

by Eliana Rudee

(JNS) — Funding from the United Nations and the World Health Organization to Gaza and the West Bank are being directed to non-emergency advocacy efforts and projects with terror-linked NGOs, according to a new report by NGO Monitor.

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in cooperation with the WHO, has coordinated millions of dollars in international, emergency government funding intended for lifesaving COVID-19 efforts in the West Bank and Gaza, which has been used more for the procuring of funds for NGO allies rather than critical humanitarian aid.

The May 2020 report, “No NGO Left Behind: The Politics of OCHA’s COVID-19 Humanitarian Aid in the West Bank and Gaza,” shows that funding is being provided to NGOs with ties to internationally designated terrorist organizations. That includes some NGOs whose staff were only months ago arrested and indicted for the murder of 17-year-old Rina Schnerb, who was killed on Aug. 23, 2019, in a bombing attack in Samaria that also seriously injured her father and brother.

According to OCHA, the West Bank and Gaza are in need of humanitarian aid to increase COVID-19 testing capacity; expand hospital-bed capacity; increase respiratory support and intensive-care treatment; provide Personal Protective Equipment; and to ensure that public-health messages are widely shared. “Put simply, to increase the ability of the Palestinians to combat and deal with COVID-19, some of the funds are going to the stated COVID-19 emergency efforts,” said Becca Wertman, managing editor at NGO Monitor.

However, she told JNS, “funds are also being used for activities that do not appear to involve vital, lifesaving resources and supplies to implement the most urgent and critical activities. In some instances, it is clear that existing NGO advocacy ventures, which often involve anti-Israel rhetoric and agendas, have been relabeled ‘COVID-19’ without a substantive contribution to emergency humanitarian aid.”

Some NGO activity funded by the response to the coronavirus, she added, involves low- or no-cost efforts, as well as tasks that have already been performed. The sums budgeted to these tasks, however, are not reported.

“This suggests that key factors for OCHA are the goals of procuring funds for their NGO allies and ‘padding the stats’ — not providing critical humanitarian materials in the most efficient and professional manner possible,” said Wertman.

This is especially hazardous, she continued, as OCHA partners with a number of organizations with ties to internationally designated terrorist organizations, and so “financial support to these groups results in increased risk for aid diversion.”

Wertman placed responsibility on OCHA, as well as its donor governments. “It is incumbent on OCHA to be transparent and report details on how much funding NGOs are getting and from which government,” she said.

“The U.N. should [also] be accountable to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, and not partner with any group that violates these principles,” stated Wertman.

Lastly, she said, “donor governments should also increase their own oversight and condition funds on the U.N.’s ability to be accountable and transparent in its use of their funds. Donor governments should also be transparent themselves and insist that their own domestic ‘terror entities lists’ are utilized in all funding contracts with U.N. agencies.”

‘Track how taxpayer money is spent’

According to NGO Monitor, the plan, which requested $42 million from U.N. donor states, has so far raised millions from governments, including the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, Norway and Spain.

“In most cases, the officials in the various countries don’t bother to track how the taxpayer money is spent,” Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, told JNS. “This opens the door to U.N. waste and worse, including funds allocated for medical purposes ending up with groups affiliated with Palestinian terror organizations.”

He urged that “governments need to pay attention to these details and to take the necessary steps to stop the United Nations from diverting funds.”

In its report, NGO Monitor suggested that steps be taken to ensure that funds raised for humanitarian response truly support those projects, including recommended safeguards to prevent any funds from reaching NGOs or others linked to internationally designated terrorist groups.

Said Steinberg: “Our report provides a snapshot of what humanitarian aid actually looks like in crisis situations and the accompanying shortcoming.”