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


30 November 1995


Pledges equivalent to more than $37 million were announced this morning for the 1996 programmes of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA.

Announcements of contributions and support were made by representatives of 25 countries, as well as by the observers of the Holy See and Switzerland. The largest pledges were made by Norway ($11 million), Netherlands ($7.6 million), Germany ($7 million) and Switzerland ($4 million).

The UNRWA provides educational services, food aid, medical services, relief and social services to the Palestinian people. The Agency 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. The Agency's five areas of operation are in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.

The representatives of Australia, Belgium, Egypt, Greece, Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey specified that some of their contributions would be directed to the move of the UNRWA headquarters from Vienna to the areas of operation.

The representatives of the United States, Sweden, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Austria, Japan, Australia, Finland and Denmark deferred announcing specific contributions pending the completion of internal parliamentary processes.

The representative of the European Union said the European Commission had been given a mandate to negotiate a ninth convention between the European Community and UNRWA, which would govern its contributions to the Agency for the years 1996 to 1998. The exact level of the Community's contributions to UNRWA's general and food aid budgets could not therefore be detailed.

Assembly President Diogo Freitas do Amaral (Portugal), in a message, said as the peace process took root in Gaza and the West Bank, where UNRWA looked after more than 1 million refugees, the Agency had become a major player in the international effort to deliver assistance through the Palestinian National Authority. The message was delivered by Ramtane Lamamra (Algeria).

Mohamed Abdelmoumene, UNRWA Acting Deputy Commissioner-General, said the Agency needed $340 million for its general fund in 1996 -- $303 million in cash and $37 million in kind. Staff salaries accounted for some 70 per cent of budget expenditures.

Feda M. Abdelhady, observer for Palestine, said that the services of UNRWA were critical in providing socio-economic stability at a time of rapid change in the context of the peace process.

Statement by Assembly President

General Assembly President DIOGO FREITAS DO AMARAL (Portugal), in a message delivered by Ramtane Lamamra (Algeria), said that for four and a half decades, UNRWA had assisted Palestinian refugees in the name of the international community. It was providing free elementary and preparatory education to hundreds of thousands of refugee children and had enabled thousands of Palestinian refugees to complete their university education. It also provided health services to the refugee community and had encouraged self-reliance through its programmes for women, youth and the disabled.

As the Palestinian-Israeli peace process took root in Gaza and the West Bank, where UNRWA looked after more than 1 million refugees, the Agency had become a major player in the international efforts to deliver assistance through the Palestinian National Authority. The two phases of the Agency's Peace Implementation Plan, which started in 1993, had received a total of $176.5 million in pledges and contributions.

The UNRWA had shown remarkable flexibility in responding to the changing political and socio-economic environment in the Middle East, he said. It had risen to the challenge of providing emergency assistance and had produced lasting improvements in the lives of refugees. As long as the United Nations was called upon to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees, the Agency must be provided with adequate resources.

Statement by UNRWA

MOHAMED ABDELMOUMENE, UNRWA Acting Deputy Commissioner-General, said the Agency had provided essential humanitarian services for the Palestinian people since 1950. With the initiation of the peace process, the Agency had been called upon to actively participate through a close working relationship with the Palestinian Authority in the education, health and relief sectors. It had transferred its operational departments from Vienna to Amman, and initiated the transfer of remaining Vienna operations to Gaza.

The Agency had closed 1994 with a $6 million cash shortfall, he said. It estimated a 1995 deficit of $6.6 million, which had come about despite cost-saving measures introduced in 1993 and 1994, and the deferral of $12 million in salary increases until 1996. If that situation did not improve, the Agency might have to lay off staff and turn away refugees from educational services. The quality of UNRWA services had already been affected. A major donor's decision to reduce its contribution would constitute a genuine threat to programmes.

The Agency needed for 1996 $340 million for the general fund -- $303 million was in cash and $37 million in kind -- he said. Staff salaries accounted for some 70 per cent of budget expenditures. The 1996 general fund budget excludes $2.2 million budgeted for Lebanon and occupied territories. Should the Agency cease its operations, it would need to pay $127 million in termination indemnities to 21,000 employees.

Under the Peace Implementation Programme, UNRWA had been able to undertake projects on a scale unprecedented in its history, he said. The relocation of the Agency's headquarters to Gaza was another priority. Construction of a headquarters building in Gaza had begun last month. Some $5 million in pledges had been received towards the $13.5 million budgeted costs of the move.

With services provided to 3.2 million refugees, UNRWA was an element of stability and continuity in a constantly changing political environment. The UNRWA would continue to meet the needs of refugees -- not only in the occupied territories, but also in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Its services would be critical until Palestinian refugees -- long humiliated by injustice -- saw tangible benefits from the peace process.


Following is a list of pledges for UNRWA 1996 programmes:

State - Local Currency - US$ Equivalent

Belgium 24 million Belgian francs 827,586

China 60,000

Czech Republic 500,000 Czech koruny 19,011

Egypt 600,000 Egyptian pounds 178,042

Germany 9.9 million deutsche mark 7,071,429

Greece 125,000

Holy See 20,000

India 225,000 Indian rupees 6,484

Indonesia 25,000

Ireland 350,000 Irish pounds 500,000

Kuwait 1,500,000

Luxembourg 5 million Luxembourg francs 172,414

Monaco 33,880 French francs 7,596

Morocco 228,000 Moroccan dirhams 26,237

Netherlands 12 million Netherlands guilders 7,643,312

New Zealand 200,000 New Zealand dollars 130,719

Norway 70 million Norwegian kroner 11,200,000

Portugal 25,000

South Africa 5,000

Spain 400 million pesetas 3,252,033

Sri Lanka 2,000

Switzerland 4.5 million Swiss francs 3,982,301

Thailand 30,000

Tunisia 12,000 Tunisian dinars 12,793

Turkey 150,000

Republic of Korea 100,000

Republic of the Maldives 1,000

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For information media - not an official record