What new UN bid could mean for aid to Palestinian territories

    Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. Members of the U.N. General Assembly are expected to vote Nov. 29 or Nov. 30 on a draft resolution submitted Nov. 26 by the Palestinian Authority. Photo by: Yoshiko Kusano / World Economic Forum / CC BY-SA

    The Palestinian Authority could gain nonmember state status at the United Nations this week but risk further straining relations, including for financial assistance, with the United States and Israel.

    Members of the U.N. General Assembly are expected to vote Nov. 29 or Nov. 30 on a draft resolution submitted Nov. 26 by the Palestinian Authority. The resolution seeks a formal upgrade of the Palestinians’ status from permanent observer, which it has held since 1974, to nonmember state similar to that held by the Vatican City.

    There is early indication the resolution will secure the votes it needs to be approved — at least two-thirds of the 193 members of the U.N. General Assembly. Among countries that have expressed support are Norway, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland and France.

    A formal upgrade would, among other privileges, give the Palestinians stronger international status and implicit recognition of their statehood. On the other hand, it could hamper the flow of financial assistance, particularly from the United States, which has vocally opposed the move.

    “We’ve been clear all along with the Palestinians that we are seeking to get money for the Palestinian Authority released from the Congress, but that these kinds of things don’t make it easier,” Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman of the U.S. Department of State, said in a news briefing.

    Israel is also expected to vote no and is reportedly weighing a number of sanctions, including suspending the transfer of tariffs and taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

    Canada is expected to vote against the resolution while the United Kingdom said it would abstain if the Palestinian Authority fails to assure it would not seek International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the occupied territories, among others.

    Access to UN agencies

    Another privilege that would come with a status upgrade is the opportunity to join U.N. international treaties and agencies such as the World Health Organization and the ICC.

    Full membership to any U.N. agency, however, comes at a high price to both the Palestinian Authority and the particular U.N. entity. The United Sates, one of the largest funders of the United Nations and its organizations, is legally bound to halt financing to any U.N. agency that accepts the Palestinian Authority as a full member.

    UNESCO, which granted the Palestinian Authority full membership in 2011, lost some $65 million in U.S. funding. The U.S. Congress also withheld assistance for the authority itself.

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    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.