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

16 October 1997



GAZA, 16 October (UNRWA) -- The Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), meeting in Amman this week, emphasized the need to put UNRWA on a sound financial footing, and agreed that, to the extent possible, any action which would negatively affect the well-being of the Palestine refugees should be avoided.

The 10-member Commission was meeting to consider the draft annual report of the UNRWA Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, and the Agency's proposed budget for the 1998-1999 biennium, both of which are to be submitted to the General Assembly at its current session.

The members of the Commission are Belgium, Egypt, France, Japan, Jordon, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. The Palestine Liberation Organization attends as observer.

The Advisory Commission expressed great appreciation for UNRWA's programmes of assistance for more than 3.4 million Palestine refugees, and to the host governments for the services provided by them to the refugee community.

The Commission considered as exceedingly grave the Agency's worsening financial situation and the consequent austerity measures which had affected the quality and level of some services to refugees. Referring to the constraints on Agency operations as described in the draft annual report, the Commission called upon the Israeli authorities to do their part to ensure that they proceeded unhampered.

"The year under review has seen a drop in the quality and level of services the Agency has been able to provide", UNRWA Commissioner-General Hansen told Commission members. "This is of concern, despite the positive and constructive dialogue that has been maintained between UNRWA, host authorities, and donors. We have to maintain services to the refugees, and identify ways of sustaining such services so long as UNRWA is required."

Commission members noted the importance of UNRWA and the role it plays in regional stability at a time of challenge. Donor representatives reconfirmed the centrality of the refugee issue in the peace process and called UNRWA's services essential. They congratulated the Agency on its excellent record in providing services despite funding shortfalls.

Host government representatives praised the warm and cooperative relationship between the Agency and their respective governments. They stressed the importance of maintaining UNRWA services at their present level and cautioned that any cuts in the Agency's basic services in the future could have a destabilizing effect.

The Chairman of the Advisory Commission, Ethem Tokdemir, Consul-General of Turkey in Jerusalem, stated in an official letter to the Commmissioner-General on behalf of the Commission that the successful functioning of the Agency was considered vital, with the refugees facing severe socio-economic hardship and uncertainty about the future in view of the difficulties inherent in the Middle East peace process.

The representative of France announced an additional contribution of 1.5 million francs to UNRWA's regular budget for 1997.

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For information media - not an official record