|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
IN MESSAGE TO DONORS, HOSTS MEETING, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS United Nations
PALESTINIAN RELIEF AGENCY ‘A FORCE FOR STABILITY’ DESERVING FULL FUNDING
Following is the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s hosts and donors meeting in Amman, delivered today by Kevin Kennedy, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process:
It is a great pleasure to send my greetings to this second annual meeting of UNRWA’s host authorities and donor Governments. The high level of participation in this session, and more generally the revitalization of the Agency’s Advisory Commission, are welcome signs that the bonds between UNRWA and its key stakeholders continue to grow stronger.
At a time when the Middle East continues to be roiled by conflict and tension, UNRWA remains a force for stability. As a bulwark against difficult conditions, it provides life-sustaining services to a population of 4.3 million Palestinian refugees. And as a constant, wide-ranging presence, it is a symbol of international concern for their plight.
UNRWA has also been an important part of efforts to renew the United Nations. In my report, Investing in the United Nations, issued earlier this year, I stressed the transformation that has taken place in the Organization’s work: from a largely normative and conference-servicing enterprise to one that also undertakes very large and complex field operations involving peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, criminal justice and much else besides. UNRWA has also had to adapt to evolving and often rapidly changing circumstances. We have seen this in the large-scale emergency relief effort it has managed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 2000, and in its rapid response to the Lebanon conflict this summer. UNRWA has also launched an ambitious management reform programme emphasizing accountability, efficiency and delegated authority.
Such efforts merit strong support from the international community. While awaiting the fulfilment of their political rights, Palestinian refugees have a right to live in safety and dignity, and are entitled to services and opportunities. I call on donors to ensure that the Agency’s regular budget is fully funded, and to make up the current, worrying shortfall. I also urge donors to support the full implementation of UNRWA’s Organizational Development plan over the next three years.
Despite the setbacks of the past year, we must all persist in our efforts to nurture peace. The United Nations remains committed to a negotiated, two-State solution -- one that would end the occupation that began in 1967, establish an independent State of Palestine, ensure security for Israel, and involve a just and durable solution to the refugee problem.
Recent months have seen civilians on both sides fall victim to indiscriminate violence. However, I must note that the disproportionate burden of deaths and injuries has been borne by Palestinians. This has only added to the hardship inflicted on the population by restrictions on movement and access.
Moreover, the capacity of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to deliver services has deteriorated severely as a result of a financial crisis precipitated by the reluctance of international donors to provide funding to the Hamas-led PA, and by the withholding by Israel of tax revenues collected on behalf of the Authority. While new mechanisms have been established to channel donor funds, these funds have not been sufficient to prevent economic collapse and widespread distress.
The ceasefire agreed two weeks ago between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert is an encouraging move towards breaking the tragic cycle of violence. It is, however, inherently fragile, and needs urgently to be built upon so that it can facilitate a return to a viable political process leading to the peace both peoples yearn for. The parties themselves continue to bear the primary responsibility for finding their way out of their predicament. No one can make peace for them, impose peace on them, or want peace more than they do. But, the international community must play a greater role in bringing about a solution and assisting in its implementation.
The plight of the Palestine refugees has now persisted for many decades. And UNRWA has now served four generations of Palestinians in need. Fortunately, they are a resilient and resourceful people. These qualities have helped them to sustain their communities in the face of persistent challenges and conflict, and led them to register impressive gains in health and literacy. The international community must do its part in helping Palestinians to secure their personal well-being and to achieve their basic rights.
In that spirit of solidarity, I thank you again for the vital support you give to UNRWA and to the broader quest for peace in the region, and wish you a successful conference.
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