|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary
Contributions to UNRWA
1st Meeting (AM)
United Nations Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees Holds Pledging Conference Amid
Serious Concerns over Funding Shortfalls Threatening to Cripple Field Operations
Describing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as a lifeline for millions of Palestinians affected by recurring regional violence, and expressing concern over its current funding shortfall, 19 donors this morning pledged roughly $91.4 million to UNRWA for 2010, with several more indicating their contributions would be forthcoming.
Donors made their pledges during a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee created by the General Assembly as the main Assembly forum for donors to announce their financial support for the 60 year-old Agency, which provides educational, health, relief and social services for more than 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.
Andrew Whitley, Director of UNRWA’s Liaison Office in New York, said the number of registered Palestinian refugees eligible for UNRWA services had doubled every 20 years and their needs had become more complex and costly as regional conflict persisted. He pointed to Israel’s devastating military incursion in Gaza one year ago, and its tight access and movement restrictions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as its military operation in Lebanon in 2006 and the destruction in 2007 of much of the Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon.
But resources made available to the Agency, particularly for its regular budget, continued to fall short of minimum requirements -– threatening to cripple its five field operations, he said.
“We are, as a result, being weakened as an institution, undermining solid achievements in refugee education and health painstakingly built up over six decades,” Mr. Whitley said, warning that the “consequences for stability of not providing the Agency with adequate funding could be serious”.
Based on current projections, UNRWA’s 2010 programme budget requirement of $598.5 million would suffer a $140.7 million deficit, and the Agency’s projected $54.4 million operational shortfall would cripple core programme services. UNRWA’s past reserves had already been depleted, due to cost-of-living pay increases for area staff, as had its working capital –- leaving no wiggle room, according to Mr. Whitley.
“Amid these unrelenting resource pressures, UNRWA is turning with renewed urgency to all donors, large and small, to raise the level of support for the Agency and to place it on a more predictable and sound financial footing,” he said, adding that UNRWA also sought funding from non-traditional donors.
The 2010 deficit would be significantly higher than the Agency’s current deficit of $90 million, he said. If it did not receive more contributions by year’s end, UNRWA would have to take drastic steps, and would not be able to fully implement and sustain improvements in the last three years of its strategic results-based reform.
Mr. Whitley called on Member States to fund UNRWA’s emergency operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which this year had received $310 million in pledges for appeals of $455 million.
Committee President Christopher Hackett (Barbados) said it was tragic that any people should remain refugees and in need of assistance 60 years after the international community sought to find a just, durable solution to their situation. Until such a solution was found, the international community was morally obliged to sustain its commitment to alleviate the refugees’ plight.
“Your pledges as well as your statements today will constitute valuable moral and financial support for UNRWA and the refugees it serves,” Mr. Hackett said, and he urged donors to provide the Agency with the requisite financing. He also paid tribute to UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd, who after nine years on the job, would retire at the end of 2009.
8 million SwF (regular)
2 million SwF (emergency)
150 million NK
United Arab Emirates
Republic of Korea
5 million ouguiya
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See pledged $20,000 for children’s education.
Future pledges were promised by Finland, Ireland, Japan, Spain, United States, Germany and Australia.
After the pledges were made, Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, of the Permanent Observer of Palestine, said UNRWA’s assistance had helped sustain the refugees and protect their rights. She reaffirmed Palestine’s profound gratitude to UNRWA and its staff, for its dedicated service, which helped sustain hope among Palestinians, even during the most dire circumstances.
Reflecting on the contributions, she reaffirmed Palestine’s gratitude to all the donor countries; strong donor support had helped ensure the continuity of programmes to many refugees, also during the recent crisis in Gaza. “For them, UNRWA is truly a lifeline,” she said.
The response to appeals had helped alleviate a humanitarian disaster, despite Israel’s blockade. But she added that there were still many problems, and that the refugees from the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon still suffered from displacement.
Moreover, in addition to financial support, it was incumbent on Member States to continue to demand that international law was respected and that the safe passage of UNRWA personnel as well as the safety of its properties was ensured, she said.
She also reiterated deep appreciation for the role of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria for their unwavering support of the Palestinian refugees. Although there was international consensus for the necessity of continuing UNRWA work, sufficient resources were needed, particularly in light of the current pressures.
The pledges reflected an important contribution, and an abiding commitment to the Palestinians, she said, expressing deep gratitude for the principled support. In conclusion, she said that she hoped the international community would intensify the political pressure to achieve a lasting, just and peaceful resolution to the question of Palestine.
In closing remarks, Mr. Whitley said that it was very encouraging to hear Member States pledge their continued financial support, especially in the light of the difficult circumstances under which UNRWA so often worked.
He was grateful for the attention that Member States paid to the question of Palestine and said that the international community could not lose sight of the problems in connection with Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which had made the people of Gaza dependent on international aid. To help share the financial burden in a more equitable manner, there was a need for more of the United Nations regular budget to be diverted towards the UNRWA.
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