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Rationale for vote change – “Assistance to Palestine Refugees”

November 9, 2023

Canada’s vote today in support of the resolution on the “Assistance to Palestine refugees” affirms the importance of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA’s) services, including emergency assistance, in ensuring that millions of Palestinian refugees receive basic services in health care, education, relief and social services.

Given the conflict and the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, Canada believes it is important to recognize the vital role played by UNRWA in the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians. Support for the organization is needed now more than ever as the conflict between Israel and Hamas nears its sixth week. This war began after Hamas’s brutal terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7, which we strongly and unequivocally continue to condemn. We continue to recognize Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with international humanitarian law and call on the release of all hostages.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is only worsening, and we continue to call on all parties to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law. We express our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of all victims of this conflict, including the over 90 UNRWA personnel who have been killed in recent weeks.

Over 10,000 people have been killed so far, with thousands more injured, and approximately 1.5 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes, of whom the majority do not have access to basic survival items. Canada welcomes the deliveries of humanitarian aid received so far into Gaza as a positive step, but much more is needed. We call for a humanitarian pause to allow for the flow of fuel, water and other much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza.

To date, Canada has announced $60 million in humanitarian assistance to address the urgent needs of vulnerable civilians affected by this crisis, of which UNRWA will be one of the recipients. This builds upon the $100-million multi-year contribution to UNRWA that Canada announced earlier this year. Canada stands ready and will do more.

Canada places great importance on UNRWA’s ability to uphold UN values and humanitarian principles, including the principle of neutrality. For Canada, it is critically important that development and humanitarian funds are used for their intended purposes and that they reach those in need. Canada’s funding strengthens the ability of UNRWA staff to identify, monitor and follow up on neutrality violations and improves transparency and accountability of UNRWA’s approach to humanitarian principles.

Moreover, we would like to underscore our long-standing concern that there are still too many resolutions related to the Arab-Israeli conflict being put forward at the UN General Assembly every year. And too many of these also unfairly single out Israel. Canada reiterates the importance of a fair-minded approach at the United Nations and will continue to vote “no” on resolutions that do not address the complexities of the issues or seek to address the actions and responsibilities of all parties, including the destructive role of terrorist organizations like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.

Canada remains committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

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