Qatar charities, including those targeted by Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf dispute, have signed $8.5m worth of agreements with various UN agencies to finance aid workers on the ground in Syria.
World Food Programme, UNICEF, World Health Organization, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will be the main beneficiaries of the funds, according to the deals signed on Saturday in Qatar’s capital Doha.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Doha, said the initiative born when Qatar cancelled celebrations of its National Day in December 2016 in solidarity with the Syrian city of Aleppo which was under assault at the time.
“That really captured the imagination of some of the leaders of the Qatari charities who decided they were going to help the UN within Syria,” he said.
But some of these charities are themselves under attack, he added.
On June 8, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt issued a joint press release in which they designated 59 individuals and 12 organisations of differing nationalities, including Qatar Charity and Eid Charity, as “terrorist“.
The UN responded to this statement by reiterating that they are bound only by the “terrorist designations” issued by its own agencies, not those issued by any other party.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the secretary-general of the UN, said that the UN has strong cooperation with Qatar Charity, including a number of joint projects being implemented in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
An official at the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that accusing Qatar’s charities of “terrorism” is not only a defamation of humanitarian charitable work, but also constituted a violation of international standards and rules.
He pointed out that the inclusion of a number of journalists on the list indicated that the purpose was to intimidate and to muzzle freedom of expression guaranteed by international accords.
Saudi Arabia and its allies cut ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed land, sea, air blockade on the country, accusing it of funding “terrorism” – an allegation Doha denies.
Later, they issued a 13-point list of demands that was rejected by Doha.