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27 October 1949



(Prepared by the Secretariat)

The draft report of the Secretary-General to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly on United Nations relief to Palestine refugees (UNRPR) was examined by the special Advisory Committee on Refugees on 4 October 1949. Meeting under the chairmanship of Mr. Martin Hill, representing the Secretary-General, and with the participation of representatives of the three relief organizations (International Committee of the Red Cross, League of Red Cross Societies, American Friends Service Committee), of the specialized agencies (UNICEF, WHO, IRO) and of Mr. Griffis, the Committee examined the principal chapters of the draft. The first chapter of the draft summarizes the work of UNRPR, the second deals with its organization, the third discusses the refugees, the fourth, relief furnished, the fifth, credits, the sixth, collaboration with the three relief agencies, and the seventh, financial questions. Two annexes are attached, one giving statements by the relief agencies, the other dealing with events previous to the establishment of UNRPR.

The document covers the period from 1 December 1948 to 30 September 1949. It stresses the fact that in spite of the limited funds available to UNRPR, the latter has been able to feed 940,000 refugees with a daily ration just under 1600 calories (ICRC 395,000, LRCS 300,000, AFSC 245,000). In this connection, the report points out the difficulty of distinguishing between bona fide refugees displaced persons, and those who are not displaced. The Director, Mr. Griffis, has not considered it practical to ask the relief agencies to undertake a census, although he requested them to take all possible steps to ensure that aid was distributed only to bona fide refugees . . . The agencies in question have met with serious difficulties in that regard, owing in particular to the movement of refugees from one district to another. In addition to the figure given above (940,000), there appear to be 5,000 refugees in Iraq, receiving assistance from the Government of Iraq, and a small number in Saudi Arabia and in Cyprus.

As regards the age and sex of the refugees, it is evident from the statistics furnished by the ICRC that more than half the total number of the refugees are children under the age of 15 years. As regards the proportion of adults of the two sexes, of the total number of refugees receiving aid from this organization, 25.3% are women and 23.3% men. With regard to religion, 93% of the refugees are Moslems, 5% Christians and less than 2% Jews.

The relief work of UNRPR was financed at the beginning by an advance of 5 million dollars on the Working Capital Fund of the United Nations, in accordance with the terms of Resolution 212 (III) of the General Assembly, and by a British contribution of 1 million pounds sterling. The Arab States (Egypt, Lebanon, the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom and Iraq) have contributed to the relief work for the refugees to the amount of about 5 million dollars, either directly or in the form of services rendered to UNRPR. With the contribution of 12 million dollars by the United States, certain neutral States, both Members and non-members, made known their intention to contribute to the relief work a sum totalling over 25 million dollars. Of this amount only $14,431,135 has been received, so that with the addition of the amount contributed by the Arab States, the funds available to UNRPR up to 1 July 1949 amounted to $19,306,631. From 1 July to 15 September 1949, donations in money or in goods raised this figure to $29,178,671. The distribution of relief, including related expenses, has reached since April 1949, the figure of about 2 million dollars per month (about $2 per refugee).

Such is a general outline of the data furnished by the draft report.

In the course of the debates which took place in the special Advisory Committee, the representative of the United States drew attention to the statement made by the Secretary of State before the General Assembly on 21 September 1949, emphasizing the responsibility of the Governments most closely concerned with regard to the refugee problem and the necessity of taking certain preliminary measures indispensable to the relief of the refugees, until such time as the latter should be in a position to support themselves. It would accordingly be necessary, in this representative’s opinion, to organize a relief programme to begin next January. The preliminary report of the Economic Survey Mission is due in November, whereas the final report will not be available until sometime in December. However, he added, before that Mission’s recommendations could be implemented, they must be studied by the Governments concerned, a process which would require two to three months. Consequently, it would be necessary, while arranging an advance from the Working Capital Fund of the United Nations, to provide at the same time for such aid as could be furnished by the specialized agencies, such as IRO, WHO and particularly UNICEF. In another connection, UNRPR might, with the assistance of the experts of the Economic Survey Mission, reduce the number of rations distributed.

The CHAIRMAN of the Committee, Mr. Martin Hill, while pointing out that any action to be taken in this field by the General Assembly would be subject to examination by it of the report of the Economic Survey Mission, declared himself authorized by the Secretary-General to state that the latter was prepared to place the question on the Assembly’s agenda for discussion in November, before the presentation of the Clapp report, in case the relief funds available for December should prove insufficient. Later, after hearing the representatives of the three relief agencies (ICRC, LRCS, Quakers), Mr. Hill added that the Secretary-General awaited with confidence the measures which would be taken by the General Assembly after it had studied the recommendations of the Conciliation Commission, which were expected, at the latest, early in December, if not earlier. In any case, in the event that the General Assembly should not have adopted a resolution by the beginning of December, the Secretary-General was prepared to seize the Assembly of the question urgently, with a view to continuation of the relief work until the end of March.

Pursuant to a decision of the Advisory Committee, these statements were brought to the notice of the three relief agencies (ICRC, LRCS, AFSC), which signified their agreement to continue their collaboration with UNRPR until next spring.

In the course of the debates, the representative of Egypt stated that, in order to lighten to a certain extent the burden laid upon the international community by the distribution of relief to the refugees, it would be desirable (as he had already pointed out to the Economic Survey Mission) to ensure

(1) that the inhabitants of the Gaza strip (not refugees) should be authorized to cultivate their lands on the other side of the armistice lines.

(2) that the inhabitants of the northern part of the Gaza strip whose lands lay within “no-man’s-land” should be authorized to cultivate their lands in that area, and

(3) that refugees located in the Gaza district should be allowed to settle in Beersheba, where the land was more or less arable.

The Chairman announced that these statements, together with the other declarations, would be brought to the attention of the Secretary-General. Further, the records of the present meeting would be transmitted to the Conciliation Commission for Palestine, and through it, to the Economic Survey Mission.

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Note par la Commission Consultative sur le projet de rapport du SG concernant l'aide 'aux réfugiés de la Palestine (UNRPR) - Note Français