STRONG SOLIDARITY FOR UNRWA EXPRESSED AT MINISTERIAL MEETING IN NEW YORK
28 September 2015
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, is in New York this week to attend the United Nations General Assembly. On Saturday, 26 September, he took part in a High-Level Ministerial meeting on the future financial stability of UNRWA. This session was co-chaired by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Sweden, in the presence of the President of the General Assembly; the UN Deputy Secretary-General; and Ministers and Senior Officials from host countries, major donors, and supporters.
Participants in the meeting committed to do their utmost to preserve the Agency’s response capacity through the provision of predictable, sustained and adapted levels of funding to the Agency. They further underlined that every effort needs to be made by all stakeholders – host countries, donors and UNRWA itself – to ensure the stability and financial sustainability of the Agency and the well-being of Palestine refugees, and that these combined efforts should continue until a just and lasting solution is found to the plight of Palestine refugees in accordance with UN resolutions.
Mr. Krähenbühl thanked host countries and donors, in particular those who showed strong solidarity and provided the necessary additional funding to overcome the Agency's unprecedented funding shortfall this summer, which risked delaying the beginning of the UNRWA school year and denying the crucial right to education for 500,000 Palestine refugee children in the Middle East. “No wonder that the risk to our education programme was perceived as existential by Palestine refugees," said the Commissioner-General.
While the 2015 crisis has been effectively addressed, Mr. Krähenbühl underlined that it was critical never to be in a position again where UNRWA core services, such as education, would be at risk. UNRWA is identifying ways to contain some of its costs while working actively with donors to preserve the recent additional financial support for the coming years.
Participants expressed their readiness to stay actively engaged with UNRWA and its Commissioner-General, both to preserve the Agency’s existing funding base and to work with UNRWA to identify new funding opportunities with a view to ensuring the Agency’s financial stability. Several participants encouraged the membership of the General Assembly to use the opportunity of the upcoming meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the Agency on 8 October 2015 in New York to confirm their engagement to fund UNRWA at an adequate level.
The Ministerial meeting reconfirmed the historic support for the Agency’s mandate, and there were numerous tributes to UNRWA staff for their dedication and courage.
UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, deepening poverty and conflict. As a result, the UNRWA General Fund, which supports core essential services and most staffing costs, operates with a large deficit. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large deficits, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
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