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Une vingtaine de contributeurs s'engagent à verser plus de 300 millions de dollars à l'office de secours et de travaux pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient - Commission spéciale de l’Assemblée générale pour les annonces de contributions volontaires à l’UNRWA - Communiqué de presse (4 décembre 2007) Français
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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
4 December 2007

General Assembly

          Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary
Contributions to UNRWA
1st Meeting (AM)


General Assembly Has Special Responsibility to Agency,
Palestinian Refugees, Its President Says at Opening of Pledging Meeting

Twenty-two donors pledged contributions to the 2008 budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) this morning, with several Governments expressing their intention to announce additional pledges at a later date.

The pledges were announced at today’s meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA, the primary forum of the General Assembly for the announcement by donors of their financial support for the Agency.

Opening the meeting, Srgjan Kerim, President of the General Assembly, said that, since its establishment in 1948, UNRWA had developed into the largest operational agency of the United Nations, currently providing education, health, relief and social services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.  UNRWA was the only programme of the Organization that was a direct subsidiary of the General Assembly, which gave the organ a special responsibility to fulfil its obligations to the Agency and to Palestinian refugees.

“It is tragic that any people should have remained refugees and in need of international assistance some 58 years after the international community undertook to find a just and durable solution to their situation,” he said.  There was a growing recognition that a durable Middle East peace settlement could not be obtained without addressing the refugee question in all its dimensions.  In that context, the outcome of last week’s Annapolis conference offered a great opportunity for reaching a comprehensive, just and lasting peace –- a permanent two-State solution -– Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders.  The forthcoming Paris Donors’ Conference would provide an important opportunity to help rebuild Palestinian institutions, boost economic growth, and lay the foundations for a viable Palestinian State.

At the same time, the needs of Palestinian refugees should not be neglected, he said, noting that UNRWA presently faced heavy challenges on all sides, with demands for its increasingly complex services growing steadily.  The Agency was the lead responder to a long-term emergency in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and more recently an emergency in northern Lebanon.  Despite the strain of those demands, it remained a stable service provider for all registered Palestinian refugees, and the international community remained morally obliged to sustain its commitment to alleviate the refugees’ plight.

Paying tribute to the devotion of the Agency’s staff, he also said its leadership was committed to substantive reform of its management and programme delivery.  Under implementation since 2006, UNRWA’s “organizational development” reforms enjoyed broad support among its stakeholders and contributed to the results-based culture that the United Nations sought to promote.  Today’s pledges and statements would constitute valuable moral and financial support for UNRWA and the approximately 4.5 million refugees it served.

Filippo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that, while many refugees had taken great strides towards self-reliance and personal success, deep pockets of entrenched deprivation among them remained to be tackled throughout the Agency’s operational areas.  Moreover, the conflict that had plagued the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 2000 had long-lasting socio-economic consequences, to overcome which the international community would be required to engage in a multi-year effort.  At the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lay the plight of the refugees, 4.5 million of whom were today registered with UNRWA.  Many others, having fled British-mandate Palestine in 1947 and 1948, or subsequently from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, had chosen either not to register as refugees or had been unable to do so.

In 2006, UNRWA had launched a three-year organizational development plan aimed at improving its management in all its aspects, especially its capacity to deliver services to refugees effectively, he continued.  There had been substantive progress in all initiatives related to that plan, including those related to the key areas of human resources and programme management, the simplification of business processes, the strengthening of information and communication technology capacity, and further enhancing the quality and transparency of dialogue with stakeholders, host and donor Governments.

He went on to say that, including its projects budget, covering infrastructure and such non-recurrent expenditures as the introduction of new vocational training courses, UNRWA’s total budget for 2008-2009 was $1.21 billion -- down slightly from $1.28 billion for the current biennium.  Next week, the United Nations would issue its consolidated appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, of which UNRWA would be an integral part.  The Organization expected to be asking for about $235 million in that appeal.  A few days later, the United Nations would also participate in the Paris Donors’ Conference aimed at supporting the Palestinian Authority and restarting development activities.  Those two sets of activities – humanitarian, as well as developmental -- went hand in hand towards supporting the political process over the coming year.

The observer for Palestine, expressing gratitude to delegations that had made pledges at the closing of today’s meeting, said their support would ensure continuity in the provision of the much-needed services and emergency assistance provided by UNRWA.  In the light of the situation on the ground, particularly over the past year, Palestinians were additionally appreciative to those who had also been able to respond to the Agency’s emergency appeal.

Describing the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territory as grim, she said hunger, poverty and unemployment were rampant in Gaza, not because people did not want to work, but because the economy was on the verge of collapse owing to Israel’s continued closure of the border and the tightening of the economy.  Such collective punishment must be absolutely rejected and Member States should call upon Israel to cease those measures and abide by international law, including the Geneva Convention as it related to civilians.

Calling upon Israel also to abide by the Convention on Privileges and Immunity, she said it must cease those actions that prevented the effective functioning of UNRWA.  The Observer Mission of Palestine was grateful to the Agency’s entire staff for carrying out their tasks under extremely difficult circumstances.  UNRWA area staff members were the only United Nations employees who did not receive hazard pay despite the dangers they faced, and it was time to address that unfair situation.

Also thanking the delegates, Mr. Grandi said in a closing statement that early realization of pledges was indispensable for the work of UNRWA.  The Agency fully realized that much pressure was exerted on donors to fund its various activities, including emergency operations and internal management reform.  The pledges deserved all the more appreciation in light of the forthcoming Paris Donors’ Conference.  Assistance to the Palestinian people, including refugees, was needed not only to alleviate suffering, but also to strengthen confidence and stability.  UNRWA was grateful for the support and urged donors to help it reduce its budget deficit.  The Agency would continue its work on the ground, endeavouring to put the funds to the best possible use.

Making pledges were representatives of Turkey, Germany, Bahrain, Austria, Luxembourg, European Community, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Italy, China, Kuwait, Norway, Spain, United States, Denmark, Oman, Finland, Ireland and Egypt.  Iceland’s pledge was read out by the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee.

A pledge was also announced by the Observer for the Holy See.

The representatives of Sweden, Japan, Portugal, France and Senegal said their Governments would announce their pledges at a later date.


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For information media • not an official record

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