UNISPAL Home

Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


GA/9367
PAL/1849

2 December 1997

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

ABOUT $126 MILLION PLEDGED FOR UNRWA'S 1998 PROGRAMMES
IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINIAN REFUGEES


Pledges totalling $125,677,700 were announced this morning for the 1998 programmes of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides educational services, food aid, medical services, relief and social services to the Palestinian people. That amount is less than 40 per cent of what UNRWA will need to maintain its regular education, health, relief and social services programmes in 1998.

At a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA, announcements of pledges were made by 23 countries. The largest pledges were made by the United States ($70 million), Sweden ($19 million), Norway ($14.2 million) and the Netherlands and Switzerland ($5.5 million).

Also making pledges were Austria, Belgium, China, Chile, Cyprus, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey. Countries announcing their intention to pledge at a later date were Canada, Denmark, France, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. Written pledges were submitted by the Czech Republic and Egypt.

The General Assembly President, Hennadiy Udovenko (Ukraine), said that the austerity measures that the UNRWA management had been forced to impose over the past four years had begun seriously to affect the level and quality of the Agency's services. Its schools, health centres and other installations -- some of them 25 or 30 years old -- were critically in need of repair. It was not enough merely to salute the work of UNRWA without giving its staff the necessary resources and tools to carry out the work entrusted to them, he stressed.

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, said if UNRWA received the same amount for its General Fund in 1998 as it had in 1997, it would still face a deficit of over $50 million. The UNRWA had prepared a needs-based budget, linking programme outputs to funding required. For decades, the international community had financed services to refugees at a certain level. It was important to maintain those levels, so that the Palestine refugee communities, which had maintained their identity and educated their children and instilled in them a sense of survival and enterprise, would be enabled to continue doing so until there was a resolution to their problem.

In closing remarks, Mr. Hansen emphasized that the prospects for peace in the Middle East would be dim if the Palestinians could not maintain hope for the future.

Also addressing the meeting, the observer for Palestine thanked the donor governments, saying that their contributions were of even greater importance in light of the difficult financial situation facing UNRWA and the deteriorating living conditions of the Palestinian refugees. The representative of Lebanon also made a statement.

The UNRWA is one of many United Nations activities which is financed mainly by voluntary contributions outside the regular budget. The Agency was created by General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) on 8 December 1949 and began operations on 1 May 1950. It initially provided emergency relief to some 750,000 Palestinian refugees who had lost their homes and livelihood as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Agency's five fields of operation are in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Statement by Assembly President

HENNADIY UDOVENKO (Ukraine), President of the General Assembly, said that UNRWA had become an indispensable factor in the daily lives of the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees. From the early days of providing the essentials of life -- food, shelter, clothing, as well as schooling and emergency medical care -UNRWA had evolved into a provider of educational, health, relief and social services, setting a standard of excellence that was a tribute to the dedication of the Agency's staff and to the determination of the refugees to make a better life for themselves.

He said that UNRWA had been introducing management reforms and innovations to enhance the efficiency of programme delivery and make the best use of the resources made available by the international community. But the Agency's budget was based not on a notional conception of an ideal level of programme delivery, but on the needs of the refugee community.

The austerity measures the Agency's management had been forced to impose over the past four years had begun seriously to affect the level and quality of the services delivered by UNRWA, he said. Its schools and health centres and other installations -- some of them 25 or 30 years old -- were critically in need of repair. It was not enough merely to salute the work of UNRWA without giving the Agency the resources, and its staff the tools, needed to carry out the work entrusted to them.

He said that, despite the ups and downs of the political negotiations, the Palestinian refugees remained a population in need of assistance. Their living conditions continued to worsen and their lives were filled with uncertainty and apprehension. They continued to look to the United Nations for the assistance they needed to carry on with their day-to-day lives in dignity, to realize their right to the best possible education, health care and other social services, even as their longer-term prospects were determined as part of the political process.

Statement by UNRWA Commissioner-General

PETER HANSEN, UNRWA Commissioner-General, said that the Agency provided education, health and relief and social services to 3.4 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Through those programmes, the international community had looked after third and fourth generation Palestine refugees and developed a relationship with them.

The Palestine refugees saw tha relationship as inviolable until their problem had been resolved, he said. UNRWA services were the most tangible form of the international community's support. Any reduction in services was perceived by the refugees as a lessening of that support and commitment.

With its voluntary funds, UNRWA could operate only with the monies made available by donors, since the Agency did not have access to any other sources of cash, he said. That partnership included the host governments, on whose soil the Palestine refugees found themselves, and who bore the biggest share of the financial burden through the provision of public services and public goods to the refugees.

That decades-long relationship had come under increasing threat over the past five years, as UNRWA's financial crisis had spiralled downwards into a series of chronic deficit figures, he said. By mid-1997, the deficit, as calculated between expenditures and estimated income, stood at some $70 million. Of that figure, about $20 million represented that core amount which, if not covered, would lead to the Agency's "technical bankruptcy".

He said that in August he had had no choice but to announce certain cuts and reductions, many of which had provoked an outcry from the refugees. He had been able to revoke some of those measures with the receipt of about $20 million for the General Fund. Deep appreciation was expressed to the donors who had contributed those additional funds, enabling UNRWA to survive 1997.

If UNRWA received the same amount for the General Fund in 1998 as it had in 1997, it would still face a deficit of over $50 million, he said. It was, therefore, hoped that all States present would respond with generous pledges. The UNRWA had prepared a needs-based budget, linking programme outputs to funding required. For decades, the international community had financed services to refugees at a certain level. It was important to maintain those levels, so that the Palestine refugee communities which had
maintained their identity and had, despite the odds, educated their children and instilled in them a sense of survival and enterprise, would be enabled to continue doing so until there was a resolution to their problem.

There was no doubt that a small number of donors provided a large proportion of the cash which UNRWA needed to run its operations, he said. The most universally agreed burden-sharing formula was the United Nations scale of assessments. Only nine donors measured up against that. A few contributions represented a manifold percentage over and above. But the majority of donors fell far below. The latter were asked to review their contributions and increase them.

It was imperative that UNRWA began to roll back the austerity measures introduced over the preceding years, he said. Adequate controls to ensure proper monitoring of UNRWA operations needed to be reinstituted. Schools and clinics needed to be maintained at safety levels. Other unmet needs, outside the General Fund, included those needed for the equipping and commissioning of the European Gaza Hospital, as well as for the creation of a termination indemnity fund.

Pledges

State
National Currency
$ Equivalent
Austria

Belgium

China

Chile

Cyprus

Czech Republic

Egypt

Germany

India

Indonesia

Kuwait

Luxembourg

Malaysia

Malta

Netherlands

Norway

Portugal

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Tunisia

Turkey

United States

Total
4,920,000 schillings

24,000,000 Belgian francs






500,000 Czech koruny



8,850,000 deutsche mark

225,000 rupees





6,500,000 Luxembourg francs



1,100 Maltese liri

11,000,000 guilders

100,000,000 kroner



500,000,000 pesetas

145,000,000 kronor

7,800,000 Swiss francs

12,000 Tunisian dinars
400,000

659,000

60,000

5,000

10,000

15,000

10,000

5,000,000

6,200

25,000

1,500,000

178,500

20,000

3,000

5,500,000

14,200,000

25,000

3,350,000

19,000,000

5,500,000

11,000

200,000

70,000,000

125,677,700




* *** *

______________________________________________________________________
For information media - not an official record