Mr. Speaker, the following reflects a consolidated response approved on behalf of Global Affairs Canada ministers.
With regard to the government’s decision to resume funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, and (a) specifically, Canada exercises enhanced due diligence for all international assistance funding for Palestinians, including UNRWA. All programming and funding mechanisms, including those for the West Bank and Gaza, are thoroughly examined to be consistent with Canadian values and legislation, and to meet the highest standards of accountability.
With regard to (b)(i), Canada has exercised enhanced due diligence and monitored accountability for funding for UNRWA since Canada resumed its support to the UN Agency in 2016.
With regard to (b)(ii), Canada’s enhanced due diligence activities include strong anti-terrorism provisions in funding agreements, ongoing oversight, regular site visits, and a systematic screening process.
Canada and UNRWA have agreed to a framework for cooperation that outlines shared commitments and Canada’s expectations regarding the implementation of UNRWA’s reform initiatives, regular monitoring and reporting, and compliance with Canadian anti-terrorism requirements. This framework for cooperation is publicly available on the Global Affairs Canada internet site: http://international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/priorities-priorites/where-ou/gac_un_unrwa-amc_nu_unrwa.aspx?lang=eng .
Canada’s funding also contributes to UNRWA’s neutrality activities, which include regular inspections of the agency’s facilities by specially trained UNRWA officers who can identify, report, and take action on violations of neutrality; training for UNRWA staff on neutrality, including in social media, and for senior staff on how to carry out effective installation inspections; promotion of students’ knowledge and skills reflecting United Nations, UN, values, including human rights, conflict resolution, gender equality and tolerance, through educational activities and materials; and UNRWA’s development, distribution and use of additional educational materials, as part of the agency’s approach to enable teachers to promote neutrality. This support also builds on funding Canada provided from 2017 to 2019 to hire a neutrality coordinator to monitor activities and respond promptly to allegations of neutrality violations.
This assistance demonstrates how Canada and UNRWA are working together to ensure respect for the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, operational independence and impartiality. This is essential to the effective delivery of its work and to Canada’s continued support to UNRWA.
In addition, our funding enables us to be an active member of UNRWA’s advisory commission. We continue to work on a regular basis with UNRWA and other donor governments to advance reforms related to governance, effectiveness, monitoring and financial administration. Canada’s participation provides an opportunity for oversight, influence and engagement on key issues. Canada will continue to take all allegations of neutrality violations very seriously.
It is a long-standing policy for UNRWA to use the textbooks of the jurisdiction in which UNRWA schools operate. This allows students to sit for local exams. UNRWA has in place a formal framework to review all textbooks and, where needed, provides additional training for teachers to address any problematic issues related to neutrality, bias, gender equality or age appropriateness.
With regard to (b)(iii), monitoring and oversight are conducted by Global Affairs Canada officials and implementing partners. Each funding instrument requires partner organizations, including UNRWA, to provide regular reporting on work plans and activities, financial records, and results achieved. Global Affairs Canada officials reserve the right to request additional information or clarification from partners as needed, to ensure compliance with the terms of funding instruments, to manage risks, to assess results or to obtain further financial details.
Given that UNRWA has operations in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, the Government of Canada officials based across the region closely monitor project activities and results.