The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, today issued the following statement:
“I was deeply concerned when it was recently brought to the attention of Canada and other donors to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East [UNRWA] that certain educational materials used last year to support Palestinian refugee children during pandemic-related school closures in the West Bank and Gaza contained references that violated UN values of human rights, tolerance, neutrality and non-discrimination.
“Canada takes this situation extremely seriously. While UNRWA has acknowledged its error and has implemented corrective actions, I have instructed Canadian officials to investigate how this happened and to reinforce UNRWA’s corrective actions, monitoring and oversight in the future. Indeed, neutrality is fundamental to UNRWA’s operations. Canada and other donor governments expect UNRWA to uphold UN standards for neutrality in all its activities, including materials used by UNRWA schools. Canada has been active in supporting UNRWA’s efforts toward this end.
“On January 19, 2021, I spoke directly with Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General. I reiterated that the use of these educational materials violates the neutrality principles that UNRWA is committed to as a UN organization and under the Framework for Cooperation between Canada and UNRWA. The Commissioner-General acknowledged Canada’s concerns and highlighted UNRWA’s zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or incitement to hatred or violence. The Commissioner-General and I will speak again on this issue in the coming weeks.
“I am personally reaching out to a number of my counterparts to discuss this situation and Canada will remain closely engaged with UNRWA and other donor countries on this and other neutrality issues.”