Opening remarks by Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, at the Informal Briefing to Consider the SG- Report on the Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
16 May 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For over 65 years the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has played a vital role in supporting the basic welfare and development of millions of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East.
In a region long afflicted by conflict, displacement and instability, UNRWA has been a source of security, constancy, and dependability for generations of Palestinian refugees.
From providing health and social services, camp infrastructure, and humanitarian relief, to protecting women and vulnerable groups from violence and exploitation, right through to providing education, microfinance and opportunity to Palestinian youths, UNRWA has long fulfilled the most fundamental of services for some of our most vulnerable people.
To this end, I would like to thank all the donors and hosts for their support over the years.
Despite the critical nature of UNRWA’s work, in recent years the work of the agency has been undermined by a severe funding shortfall, which threatens its continued ability to deliver on its mandate, and to provide basic relief to Palestine refugees.
Indeed, I have repeatedly expressed my deep concern at the gravity of this situation, and have called on Member States to respond generously and expeditiously to UNRWA’s efforts to fill its $115 million funding gap, so that it has sufficient funds to plan and to carry out its activities in an effective and predictable manner.
The Secretary-General’s latest report on UNRWA’s operations was recently released, confirming the seriousness of the situation, and offering concrete proposals on ways to help to shore up UNRWA’s resource foundation to ensure that it has sufficient, predictable and sustained financing to fulfill its mandate, and ensure that Palestinian refugees are not left behind in our global efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In light of the release of this report, I have therefore convened today’s informal briefing to enable Member States to hear directly from the UN system on the findings of the Secretary-General’s latest report, including its recommendations for action which – taken together – can help to stabilise UNRWA’s operations.
It is also intended to provide an opportunity for Member States to reaffirm their political and humanitarian commitment to UNRWA, and to taking the necessary follow-up action to ensure its long-term viability.
Before handing the floor to the briefers, I would like to once thank Commissioner-General Krähenbühl of UNRWA and ASG Hochschild for making themselves available to join us today. I also want to express my thanks to Switzerland and Turkey for having requested the holding of this meeting, as well as for their ongoing commitment to addressing this critical situation, until such time as a peaceful, just, comprehensive and lasting settlement can be found.
I thank you.