“UNRWA is a key partner organization for the European Union in the Middle East. The principal objective of the EU’s support to Palestine refugees is to ensure that their essential humanitarian and development needs are met until there is a just, fair and agreed solution to the refugee question. In the meantime it is essential that UNRWA is able to maintain the level of the basic services it provides," said Catherine Ashton.
"The EU understands the major problems UNRWA is facing in obtaining the funds necessary to provide the most basic vital services to the Palestinian refugee population. In recognition of the excellent work carried out by UNRWA we have made a significant effort to increase our contribution to their core budget this year," said Commissioner Füle.
On behalf of Palestine refugees Filippo Grandi expressed gratitude to the EU for its renewed multiyear commitment to Palestine refugees and UNRWA and, for its contribution this year which is particularly important at a time of significant changes in the region.
Through the signature of multi-year Joint Declarations with UNRWA, the EU gives an indication of its support to UNRWA’s General Fund, thus underpinning UNRWA’s ability to provide essential core services to Palestine refugees. The EU’s indicative contribution to UNRWA's General Fund in 2011-2013 would be around €80 million a year, subject to budgetary allocations.
The first of the two Contribution Agreements signed today, for €40 million, represents a further contribution to UNRWA's General Fund on top of a Contribution Agreement for the same amount signed earlier this year. The second, for an amount of €5 million, is specifically dedicated to Food Security and is designed to enable the organisation to provide nutrition for the poorest and most vulnerable refugees.
The EU and its Member States are the biggest donors to UNRWA. Together with humanitarian aid and support from the Instrument for Stability, the EU contribution for 2011 now stands at €125 million. Indeed between 2000 and 2010 the EU provided more than €1.2 billion in support to the Agency.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in December 1949. Its mission then was to provide humanitarian relief for the refugees and displaced persons forced to flee their homes in Palestine during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Today, the Agency is the largest UN operation in the Middle East, with over 30,000 employees, almost all of them refugees themselves.
UNRWA is unique because it has maintained this commitment to just one group of people, spanning four generations. Today, UNRWA provides assistance to nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank & Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
UNRWA’s assistance goes far beyond basic material support. By enabling refugee families and their children to attend school, to receive medical attention and to survive economically, UNRWA keeps alive the values of humanity, solidarity and dignity. In its Medium Term Strategy (2010-2015), UNRWA reaffirmed its willingness to continue this good work into the future.