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We cannot let this situation become the new normal –  a personal reflection

A member blog post by

Frances Guy


CEO of SIDA, Frances Guy provides a personal reflection on the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

In an interview with Foreign Policy on 13 June1, Filipo Grandi, Head of UNHCR (the High Commission for Refugees) suggested that we have become a world that is unable to make peace. After more than 250 days of bombardment and conflict in Gaza, with hostages still in captivity, more than 40,000 Palestinians killed, and hundreds of thousands injured, with more than a million people displaced multiple times and little humanitarian assistance reaching those in need, the world, but especially the Palestinians and Israelis, are in desperate need of peace.   

After the end of WWII, two key frameworks were created to try to ensure peace and minimise the impact of conflict:  the UN Security Council was tasked with maintaining peace and security and the Geneva Conventions and their protocols created a framework for international humanitarian law to try and limit the worst effects of war on civilians.  We are watching both unravel before our eyes.   

The UN Security Council has managed to pass two resolutions calling for a ceasefire: one in March for a temporary truce for Ramadan which led to some hope that was soon quashed, and one more recently on 10 June, which called on Hamas to accept the terms of a US proposal that the resolution claimed Israel had accepted. Regrettably the moral authority of a Security Council long divided, and unable to agree on any punitive measures, has completely dissipated.  This is dangerous for the people of Gaza but it is also dangerous for the people of al Fasher in Sudan, as the Security Council also passed a resolution on 13 June, demanding the end to the siege of the capital of Darfur region in Sudan, and calling on the warring sides “to allow and facilitate the rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained passage of humanitarian relief”.

The descent into impunity for violations of international law affects all of us wherever we are. 

Whilst it can be argued that the civilians of Gaza have been deprived of access to food and water and other essentials since at least October,  it is certainly clear that the situation has deteriorated significantly since the closure of the Rafah crossing and Israel’s subsequent direct control of all crossing points into Gaza.   In its call for Israel to halt its attack on Rafah on 24 May2, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was clear in calling for Israel to immediately halt its military offensive,  to maintain open the Rafah crossing for unhindered provision at scale of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance,  and to report within one month on the measures taken to implement the order.   This it should be recalled followed requests by the court on 26 January 20243 for Israel to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. A request that was repeated on 28 March.  

Whilst these legal rulings are in theory binding, the ICJ has no means of enforcement.

I set this out to demonstrate that when states defy the rules that helped create an imperfect but quasi functioning international order everyone (including those with power) look into the abyss of disorder and chaos, and unremitting humanitarian disaster.   This applies to others, not only Israel, but Israel is the state acting with impunity right now.  

As humanitarians our full support and solidarity is behind everyone trying valiantly to provide some succour to all those in need in the midst of this nightmare. 

A real worry is the systematic attempt to undermine UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians).  It is worth remembering that UNRWA was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1949 UNRWA to provide assistance and protection to Palestine refugees pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.  Until there is that just and lasting solution that includes Palestinian refugees in all the countries that UNRWA operates in, the members of the General Assembly have some obligation to ensure UNRWA’s continued operation.    

I am sure you share my concern to understand what we can do on a personal and organisational level to make any difference when so much seems stacked against basic humanity.  

On 21 May the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) published an information note4 on UK Humanitarian Aid to Gaza.  Whilst UK aid increased in 23/24 in response to the crisis, funding to UNRWA was frozen in January 2024 and whilst other countries have resumed funding the UK has yet to do so.  The ICAI report lays out 6 areas that it is important to continue to ask questions of future UK governments:  

  •  International humanitarian law: What are the circumstances in which the UK would state publicly its assessment as to whether Israel has violated international humanitarian law, and what would be the consequences of such an assessment? 
  • Support for UNRWA: Given the critical role of UNRWA, what are the UK’s plans in relation to further funding? 
  • Humanitarian access: What is the UK’s strategy for restoring adequate supplies of food and essential goods into Gaza and ensuring sustainable humanitarian access? Should the UK continue to support the development of a maritime corridor? 
  • Human costs: What preparations is the UK making to respond to the long-term harms suffered by the population of Gaza, including war-related physical and mental injuries and the effects of gender-based violence? 
  • Monitoring and transparency: What action is the UK taking to ensure that adequate monitoring arrangements are put in place for its Gaza operations, and that there is space for journalism and other independent scrutiny? 
  • Reconstruction of Gaza: What advance planning is FCDO undertaking, with international partners, for the recovery and reconstruction of Gaza? 

As concerned individuals working in humanitarian support and development these are key questions to keep asking.    If you agree that it is also important to hold violators of international humanitarian law to account, we need to keep talking about impunity and we need to consider what we can do and what we can ask politicians to do to make a difference.   For those interested in looking at this further, CAABU (the Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding ) has a guide to the stance of all the political parties on Palestine and some suggestions of how to write to candidates, that you can access here.

To all of our members working in Palestine we offer our continuous solidarity and support.  


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