Remarks by Richard Erdman, U.S. Senior Advisor, at the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee
of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
U.S. Senior Advisor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
December 3, 2013
The U.S. government greatly values UNRWA’s work in providing humanitarian assistance for approximately five million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. UNRWA’s education, health, and relief and social services programs have improved the lives of millions of Palestinian refugees, with the longstanding support of host governments and donors.
The United States remains committed to supporting UNRWA’s work for Palestinian refugees. The United States is pleased to announce an initial pledge today of $100 million toward UNRWA’s 2014 programs, including $60 million in support of UNRWA’s General Fund, $39 million in support of emergency activities in Gaza and the West Bank, and $1 million to help provide relief to refugees displaced from Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. This initial contribution to UNRWA is an important signal of the ongoing support of the United States to the agency. The United States is UNRWA’s largest bilateral donor, having provided over $294 million to the agency in 2013. Of that total, the United States has provided over $70 million to support UNRWA’s response to assist Palestinians in or displaced from Syria. We will consider additional support when UNRWA releases its 2014 appeal next week.
U.S. support helps UNRWA provide essential humanitarian services, including life-saving healthcare, education, and protection, to Palestinian refugees. In the last year, UNRWA has faced unprecedented challenges across the fields of operation, including the siege of the Yarmouk neighborhood of Damascus, which has forced tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees to flee. The United States commends the continued dedication of UNRWA’s employees in difficult places; their dedication underscores the commitment of UNRWA to the fundamental principle that people in need are deserving of assistance and protection. The United States greatly appreciates UNRWA staff for the courage and dedication they show as frontline humanitarian workers and extends its deepest condolences to family and colleagues of the five UNRWA staff members killed in the last year.
UNRWA’s essential humanitarian work includes providing health care to families in Lebanon and ensuring that children in Gaza receive an education that includes human rights and tolerance and rejects violence in all its forms. Through its work, UNRWA acts as an important stabilizing force in the region, and it cannot remain effective without continued support. The United States remains deeply concerned about the impact of UNRWA’s chronic financial shortfalls on its ability to provide critical humanitarian assistance. Donors, host governments, and UNRWA must work together confront the serious financial challenges facing the organization.
We commend host governments for their longstanding history of hosting Palestinian refugees, including recent arrivals from Syria, and we urge them to sustain this generosity. The United States urges donor states to support robustly UNRWA’s General Fund, and applauds those that have come forward with new and increased contributions. We urge Arab League States to fulfill their commitment to contribute 7.8 percent of UNRWA’s General Fund needs. UNRWA’s important work is not possible without our collective support.
Finally, we appreciate the work of the outgoing Commissioner General Filippo Grandi and note his eight years of strong leadership. We look forward to working with his newly appointed successor, Pierre Krähenbühl, to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees in these difficult political and financial times, while our Israeli and Palestinian partners press forward to find a negotiated solution to this longstanding conflict.
Thank you, Madame President.