DONOR COUNTRIES PLEDGE $38.5 MILLION TO UNRWA’S REGULAR BUDGET, $22 MILLION TO EMERGENCY APPEAL

4 December 2000
GA/9841

DONOR COUNTRIES PLEDGE $38.5 MILLION TO UNRWA’S REGULAR BUDGET, $22 MILLION TO EMERGENCY APPEAL

4 December 2000

Press ReleaseGA/9841 PAL/1885

DONOR COUNTRIES PLEDGE $38.5 MILLION TO UNRWA’S REGULAR BUDGET, $22 MILLION TO EMERGENCY APPEAL

20001204

Donor countries pledged $38.5 million for the 2001 regular budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as well as $22 million for an emergency appeal launched 8 November, as the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA met this morning.

Harri Holkeri, President of the General Assembly, said that in the absence of a solution to the refugee question after more than 50 years, the international community’s commitment to the refugees must continue through the work of UNRWA. The agency was a lifeline for 4 million people, providing education and training, health care, special hardship assistance, social programmes and, in recent years, a range of economic development programmes.

However, he said, the chronic underfunding of UNRWA had reached a critical stage, in view of the growing needs of its client population. Requirements for 2001 -- $311 million for the regular budget -– needed to be fully funded to provide vital services. Working capital needed to be built up as well; its lack required the Agency to seek at least $25 million in January 2001 to continue its operations.

Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that providing services to the more than 3.8 million Palestine refugees with services on a consistent basis and of an acceptable quality had become ever more difficult, as resources had not kept pace with growing needs. Many of UNRWA’s schools now used a double shift system to cope with a classroom shortage; medical staff were under great strain as doctors treated more than 100 patients a day; and the Agency’s social workers struggled to cope with a growing caseload. The growth of UNRWA’s resource base was inadequate and needed to be raised to at least 5 per cent per annum to keep up with the growth in the refugee population.

He said that at meetings with major donors and host-country representatives held regularly in the region, UNRWA had received consistent support and praise for its work and generous support last September in the form of additional pledges for the current calendar year. However, even with those additional resources, the Agency would only be able to scrape by. That hand-to-mouth situation was exacerbated by the fact that UNRWA had no working capital and no salary increase reserve to implement its pay policy. For the year 2001, total requirements were $311 million, which must be fully funded if the Agency was to safeguard its vital services from damaging reductions and continuing to reinstate services affected by austerity measures adopted in past years. Statements

HARRI HOLKERI, President of the United Nations General Assembly, said that the plight of the Palestinian refugees was at the heart of the current conflict in the Middle East. He said that, in the absence of a resolution to the issue after more than 50 years, the commitment of the international community to the refugees must continue through the work of UNRWA. That agency was a lifeline for 4 million refugees, providing education and training, health care, special hardship assistance, social programmes, and, in recent years, a range of economic development programmes.

However, he said, the chronic underfunding of UNRWA has reached a critical stage, in view of the growing needs of its client population. Requirements for 2001 -- $311 million for the regular budget – needed to be fully funded to provide vital services. Working capital needed to be built up as well; its lack required the Agency to seek at least $25 million in January 2001 to continue operations.

He said that UNRWA was the only programme of the United Nations which was a direct subsidiary of the General Assembly. As President of that body, he paid tribute to the devotion of the UNRWA staff and directors, most of them Palestine refugees themselves, working under difficult circumstances. Due to the rekindled conflict, refugees in Gaza and the West Bank have seen their lives disrupted anew, while those in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon were experiencing renewed uncertainty. A just solution to their plight must be found through political means, in accordance with international laws and United Nations resolutions. Until that occurred, the international community’s commitment must be reaffirmed through adequate resources pledged to UNRWA.

PETER HANSEN, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that providing services to the more than 3.8 million Palestine refugees on a consistent basis and of an acceptable quality had become ever more difficult as resources had not kept pace with growing needs. Many of UNRWA’s schools now used a double shift system to cope with a classroom shortage; medical staff were under great strain as doctors treated more than 100 patients a day; and the Agency’s social workers struggled to cope with a growing caseload. The growth of UNRWA’s resource base was inadequate and needed to be raised to at least 5 per cent per annum to keep up with the growth in the refugee population.

He said that at meetings with major donors and host-country representatives held regularly in the region, UNRWA had received consistent support and praise for its work and generous support, last September, in the form of additional pledges for the current calendar year. However, even with those additional resources, the Agency would only be able to scrape by. That hand-to-mouth situation was exacerbated by the fact that UNRWA had no working capital and no salary increase reserve to implement its pay policy. Both items remained unfunded, in light of the shortfall of $18.3 million with respect to the approved budget of $280 million.

For the year 2001, it was essential that contributions to the Agency be made at the level of UNRWA’s approved general fund budget of $289.7 million. In addition, the Agency still needed $7 million to fund its working capital reserve, $54 million for its pay policy implementation and $10 million towards emerging needs for refugees, amounting to $311 million in total refugee regular budget cash requirements for 2001. That budget must be fully funded if the Agency was to achieve its aim of safeguarding its vital services from damaging reductions and continuing to reinstate services affected by austerity measures adopted in past years.

He said the need was more critical in view of the current instability. As a result of closures, growing unemployment and other economic losses to the Palestinian economy, the needs of the refugees had risen dramatically in the occupied territories. To meet the requirements for additional food and medicines, UNRWA had first drawn on its stocks and cash meant to cover supplies to refugees in its programmes of assistance to hardship cases. A substantial increase in pledges was needed compared to those for the current year, and contributions must be paid early in 2001, preferably during the first quarter. To be able to address UNRWA’s chronic deficit problems once and for all, he said donor States had to raise their contributions appropriately.

Pledges*

Country Regular Budget Emergency Appeal

Austria $ 309,000 (4,920,000 AS) Bahrain $ 30,000 Chile $ 5,000 China $ 60,000 Cyprus $ 10,000 Denmark $ 670,000 (5,800,000 DK) Italy $ 1,200,000 (3,000,000,000 L) Kuwait $ 1,500,000 Luxembourg $ 1,500,000 (70,000,000 LF) Malaysia $ 25,000 Morocco $ 22,628 (228,000 Dirham) Netherlands $13,000,000 Norway $11,500,000 (100,000,000 NOK) $ 560,000 (5,000,000 NOK) Spain $ 2,864,000 (550,000,000 P) Sweden $15,900,000 (160,000,000 SK) $ 100,000 (1,000,000 SK) Switzerland $ 4,430,000 (7,800,000 SF) $ 568,000 (1,000,000 SF) Tunisia $ 8,400 (12,000 TD) Turkey $ 200,000 United Arab Emirates $ 500,000 United Kingdom $ 7,100,000 (5,000,000 L)

Pledges received in writing

Czech Republic $ 25,000 (100,000,000 Crowns) Greece $ 400,000

Pledges previously announced

India $ 4,800 (225,000 Rupees) Maldives $ 1,000 Monaco $ 5,000

TOTAL $ 38,500,000 $ 21,970,000

The Netherlands announced that it expected its pledge to the regular budget to be at the same level as that of last year. Denmark expected its pledge to the regular budget to be at the same level as that of the year 2000, which was DK60,000,000 or $7,000,000. In Luxembourg’s regular budget, LF14,000,000 or $300,000 was included for projects.

* Dollar amounts calculated using 1 December United Nations operational rates of exchange.

Concluding Statements

Mr. HANSEN, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, announced that more countries had increased their contributions by more than 5 per cent. If that were true of Member States in general, UNRWA’s vital services would not be in danger of being eroded. He cited, in particular, the extraordinary contributions of the Netherlands, which had provided more than a third of the emergency appeal. Many other countries had contributed more than expected. To them and all donors, he expressed gratitude for allowing the Agency to continue its work to improve the difficult situation of the Palestinian refugees.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Observer for Palestine, expressed gratitude for the contributions to the regular budget of UNRWA, as well as to the emergency appeal. The deterioration of the situation on the ground had increased need greatly. The pledges made today, along with their early fulfilment, would help continue vital support for Palestine refugees. She expressed thanks to the Commissioner-General and to his staff members for their work. At the same time, she reaffirmed the need for a just solution to the refugee problem.

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For information media. Not an official record.