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

12 June 1997


New Pledges of $4.1 Million Announced for UNRWA Fund in 1997

GAZA, 12 June (UNRWA) -- The aim of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was to maintain services for some 3.4 million Palestine refugees and identify ways of doing so for as long as it was required, according to an agreed statement by delegates at an informal meeting of major donor and host governments in Amman.

The two-day meeting, which concluded yesterday, was attended by representatives of 28 of the Agency's major donors, including the European Union, host governments and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

In the absence of major contributions in the short term to substantially decrease the Agency's current financial deficit, the donor community was urged to re-examine positively their contributions in the light of the discussions at the meeting, with a view to ensuring the continued provision of essential services to the refugees at existing levels.

Several donors used the occasion of the meeting to announce additional contributions. Saudi Arabia pledged an additional amount of $2.4 million to the Agency for 1997. Added to its earlier contribution of $1.2 million, that represents a tripling of Saudi Arabia's contribution to UNRWA's General Fund over 1996 levels. Sweden announced an additional pledge of 10 million Swedish kronor (around $1.2 million) for education in Lebanon, while the Netherlands announced a new contribution of 1 million Dutch guilders ($520,000) -- for a total of $4.1 million in new contributions for the Agency's General Fund in 1997.

In addition, the United States announced a new pledge of over $1.4 million for new projects in the Agency's Peace Implementation Programme (PIP), which directly support UNRWA's core services in education and health. Denmark announced its regular 1997 pledge of 50 million Danish kroner (around $7.7 million), including $3.4 million for the Agency's General Fund and $4.3 million for specific projects. Belgium pledged 20 million Belgian francs (around $600,000) for PIP projects, payable in 1998.

In an opening address, His Royal Highness Crown Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan said UNRWA was facing a "dire situation after decades of remarkable service to a large displaced Palestinian population in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza." Many major donor countries were "disengaging too soon from an agenda of relief and recovery that has not yet run its course. Given the proper backing, UNRWA may yet provide the necessary socio-economic infrastructure to pave the way for the transition to a just and comprehensive peace in the region." He said the Agency had an "invaluable role to play in educating and training Palestinians to administer their own future".

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, told participants that "UNRWA was established to provide services to Palestine refugees, and not to take them away". He expressed his hope that delegates would understand the magnitude of the financial crisis facing the Agency and begin the process of formulating strategies to resolve its continuing structural deficit. He pointed out that since Palestine refugees were unique, as they had no homes to which they could return, it was essential for UNRWA to be enabled to fulfil its mandate to alleviate their sufferings, not the increase their hardship.

As'ad Abdul Rahman, member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and head of its Refugee Department, delivered a personal message of Chairman Yasser Arafat. Mr Arafat urged the international community to continue and expand its support for the Agency and reiterated the full support of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority for UNRWA.

"The refugees see the strength of UNRWA's programmes as a direct reflection of the commitment of the international community to a just and comprehensive outcome of the peace process", Mr. Arafat said. "At this sensitive time, it would be disastrous for the international community to send a negative signal by cutting back on UNRWA's services."

During the meeting, delegates reviewed the Agency's current financial deficit and cash-flow difficulties. There was strong support for intensive dialogue between UNRWA, donor countries and host authorities in the preparation of the Agency's biennial budget for 1998-1999.

In their agreed statement, delegates acknowledged the linkage between regional peace and stability and the maintenance of UNRWA's role. Their statement said that "there could be no question of premature phasing out of UNRWA's mandated responsibilities for the Palestine refugees."

In a closing statement, the Commissioner-General said UNRWA continued to play "a vital and indispensable role in the region", and expressed his hope that "the spirit of cooperation at this meeting will be carried forward into the future."

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