Department of State (State) and United Nations relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Actions to Implement Section 301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

GAO-04-276R: Published: Nov 17, 2003. Publicly Released: Nov 17, 2003.

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Established in 1949 by the United Nations, UNRWA provides assistance to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. UNRWA assistance is primarily education, health, and relief and social services. More than 4 million Palestinian refugees are eligible to receive these services in UNRWA's five areas of operation--Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. In section 301(c) of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act (PL 87-195) as amended, Congress has directed that "No contributions by the United States shall be made to (UNRWA) except on the condition that (UNRWA) take all possible measures to assure that no part of the United States contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army or any other guerrilla type organization or who has engaged in any act of terrorism." To fulfill a legislative mandate, we are reporting on State Department actions and UNRWA's implementation of procedures to address section 301(c).

State has taken actions to implement section 301(c). For example, State requires UNRWA to certify that in accepting each contribution from the United States, UNRWA is taking all possible measures to assure that U.S funds do not benefit terrorists or refugees receiving military training from guerrilla groups. State has also acted to improve monitoring by (1) placing a Refugee Coordinator in Amman, Jordan, whose main duty is to monitor UNRWA; (2) funding additional UNRWA international staff to inspect facilities; and (3) requesting that UNRWA report regularly on 301(c) compliance. State has also urged UNRWA to adopt a more formal monitoring program. However, State has not defined key terms used in section 301(c). UNRWA's implementation of procedures to address section 301(c) is constrained by several factors. First, while it relies on host governments to review local job applicants for UNRWA employment in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, it does not have similar arrangements with authorities in the West Bank and Gaza, where UNRWA also lacks access to data on arrests of its local staff. Second, UNRWA uses international staff to inspect its facilities and requires non-UNRWA groups to obtain permission before using those facilities, but it has not been able to prevent armed incursions. Finally, UNRWA is constrained in determining if its beneficiaries meet section 301(c) criteria, owing to concerns for its staff's safety and its inability to verify beneficiary responses.