US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Mr. Nicholas Burns visits Aida refugee camp

On 24 January the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Mr. Nicholas Burns met with UNRWA officials at Aida Girls School, Bethlehem. The Under Secretary was briefed by the Director of the Executive Office, Mr. Michael Kingsley regarding the Agency’s key strategic challenges and direction. He also brought Mr. Burns up to date on the operational impact of the ongoing organizational development initiative.

John Ging, Director of UNRWA’s Gaza Field Office briefed Mr. Burns on the new Israeli restrictions in Gaza and the negative impact this is having on UNRWA operations and the wider refugee situation in Gaza. Ms. Barbara Shenstone, Director of the West Bank Field Office briefed Mr. Burns on the closure regime in the West Bank, Israeli plans to impose tighter restrictions and their implications on UNRWA capacity to deliver assistance.

Mr. Burns, in response, thanked the Agency for its tremendous work in delivering humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees in the face of an increasingly difficult situation on the ground. He pledged firm and continued political and financial commitments to the Agency. Further, he pointed to the Annapolis process as a source of hope for the Palestinian people that would allow UNRWA to continue its humanitarian work within a developing political framework.

The United States is UNRWA’s largest bilateral donor. The US has recently announced a $40 million contribution towards the General Fund. In 2007, the US government contributed $154.15 million to UNRWA, including $90.65 million for the General Fund and $63.5 for its emergency appeals for Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.