She told the show the allegations aren’t serious enough in comparison to the consequences that stopping the funding would cause in Gaza.
She was pleased New Zealand hasn’t “rushed to judgment” as it’s currently just allegations against the major agency delivering humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza population.
But she said a pause in funding could have deadly consequences for those in Gaza.
“If they [UNRWA] haven’t got the money, people literally starve. You can’t create another delivery platform overnight… so it’s a deadly situation,” she told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green.
“That’s why I say, looking at the bigger picture to defund over these allegations released on the day of the International Court of Justice ruling, I think is simply outrageous and actually callous.”
She told AM the countries that have suspended funding to the agency have done so prematurely.
“What you have are allegations against a tiny proportion of the staff of UNRWA. To use that as an excuse to remove literally hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of funding from the organisation is outrageous, particularly when that organisation is so critical in trying to get the limited aid that Israel does allow over the border to people who are starving and sick there,” she said.
Clark told AM Israel has a long-term agenda against UNRWA and would like to see it disestablished as it doesn’t want to be reminded there are people with refugee status who come under UNRWA’s auspices.
“So this is their agenda to get rid of it and unfortunately, this premature, precipitous defunding of UNRWA by a number of the donors plays to that agenda,” she said.
“I really cannot rationalise how countries can cut funding to the major delivery agency to starving and sick Palestinians in Gaza.
“I saw the National Security Council of the US spokesperson, John Kirby, acknowledging that UNRWA has done a very good job of delivering support. If it’s done a very good job why do you suspend its funding at this critical hour because of allegations against 12 people.”
Clark wasn’t the only expert urging the government not to suspend money to the under-fire UN agency.
Robert Patman, Otago University international relations expert, told AM on Tuesday morning Clark’s assessment was “spot on”.
“We shouldn’t overlook the desperate situation that UNRWA is operating under. More than 140 members of UNRWA, that is UN employees, have been killed since October 7,” Patman said.
“By definition, they were not involved in the October 7 Hamas attack. They were killed simply doing their work and it’s multifaceted work. Distributing humanitarian aid but also providing education for displaced people.”