24 NOVEMBER 2020

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.


UN Relief and Works Agency

Turning to UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East]:  Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, has told the Agency’s Advisory Board that the agency still desperately needs $70 million in contributions to avoid painful measures in the coming weeks and to limit the amount of liabilities carried over into 2021.  He said that, if it does not secure the funds for November and December salaries, the Agency will continue to lack the cash needed to operate in January, according to the currently available information on 2021 contributions.

UNRWA this year faces a shortfall of $115 million — including the $70 million which is needed to cover November and December salaries of over 28,000 staff.  The Commissioner‑General was compelled last week to secure an additional $20 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help with cash flow and cover part of the November payroll.  Based on funds available, he will decide later this week if UNRWA proceeds with partial payment of salaries at the end of the month or delays full payment.  With decreased contributions by several donors, UNRWA’s shortfall in 2020 is the lowest the Agency has had since 2012, while the needs of refugees are huge, especially, obviously, with the socioeconomic impact of COVID‑19.


Questions and Answers


Question:  Hi, Steph.  I have two question… two subjects.  The first one is a follow‑up on your UNRWA statement and $70 million that are still needed.  My question is, why don’t you call on Israel, as the occupation Power, to fill this gap and pay this money?

Spokesman:  Look, UNRWA, obviously, operates in a limited area, but it remains as a UN agency that operates partly on an assessed contribution but broadly on voluntary contributions, and we call on all Member States to help fund UNRWA.

Question:  But… I mean, I understand that.  The thing is that, according to the UN resolutions and Geneva Conventions, the occupying Power is responsible for the people who are under occupation, and isn’t it very normal to ask the party and the country who is responsible for this to finance the refugees and solve this problem that you constantly have?

Spokesman:  International… I mean, obviously, international law is what it is, but there are funding mechanisms for UN agencies.  This has worked for quite some time with UNRWA, although it’s always been and especially in the last few years in a more precarious financial situation.  And we hope that those who have always given to UNRWA will continue to do so in even greater amounts.  Your second question?


For information media. Not an official record.