Japan Prepares to Resume Funding for U.N. Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister’s Office

The Japanese government is preparing to resume its funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East(UNRWA) as soon as early April, it has been learned.

Japan has suspended additional funding to the U.N. agency since January, after some UNRWA employees were accused of involvement in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

The government reportedly will make a final decision after it asks UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini about measures to prevent a recurrence. Lazzarini is scheduled to visit Japan soon.

According to multiple sources close to the government, Lazzarini will meet with Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and other officials as early as Thursday and explain how the agency will strengthen its governance structure and other measures. “UNRWA is trying to improve its management structure, which allays our concerns regarding a recurrence of the issue,” a government source said.

On March 14, Kamikawa spoke by phone with Catherine Colonna, a former French foreign minister who leads an independent review group that is assessing the neutrality of UNRWA. Kamikawa also met on March 18 with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres during her trip to New York, as part of efforts to gather information and exchange opinions on the issue.

With hunger worsening in the Gaza Strip, the European Union, Canada and Sweden – all of which have suspended funding to UNRWA – announced earlier this month they would resume their support. On March 20, the review group presented to Guterres an interim report that says the group has identified critical areas that need to be addressed.

Some Japanese government officials have said these developments are paving the way for Japan to also resume its funding to the U.N. agency.

Kamikawa commented on her scheduled meeting with Lazzarini at a press conference Friday, saying, “I will ask for a detailed explanation and swiftly deal with the issue.”