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Financement de l’UNRWA présentation du rapport du Groupe de travail – Débat de la Quatrième commission - Communiqué de presse (extraits) Français
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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
General Assembly
11 November 2010



General Assembly
GA/SPD/471

        Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Sixty-fifth General Assembly
Fourth Committee
23rd Meeting (PM)


FOURTH COMMITTEE HEARS PALESTINIAN RELIEF AGENCY'S FUNDING CRISIS ON 'KNIFE EDGE';

NEARING CONCLUSION OF WORK, APPROVES TEXTS ON ATOMIC RADIATION, 2011 WORK PLAN

UNRWA’s Administrative Support Chief Says Worsening Structural Deficit Obliges
Agency to Turn to General Assembly for Urgent Assistance, Cites Historic Precedent


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Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to take action on a draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation, and a draft decision on its programme of work for the sixty-sixth session.  The Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of the report of the Working Group on the Financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (document A/65/551), as well as an address by the Director for Administrative Support of UNRWA.
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In its report on UNRWA’s financing (document A/65/551), the Working Group notes, with serious concern, the exceptionally large funding gap anticipated for the Agency’s regular budget in 2010 and reiterates that it is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that UNRWA services are maintained at an acceptable level, in quantitative and qualitative terms, and to ensure that funding keeps pace with the changing needs of the refugee population.

The Working Group also notes, with serious concern, the structural nature of UNRWA’s financial crisis whereby UNRWA’s General Fund is under-funded year after year, leading the Agency to finance its annual deficit partly by spending its working capital, now virtually depleted.  It welcomes further discussion on how to address this issue, notably within the context of the anticipated discussions at the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly on the forthcoming report of the Secretary-General on the strengthening of the management capacity of UNRWA.

Also in the report, the Working Group strongly urges all Governments that have not yet contributed to UNRWA to do so on a regular basis, and those Governments that have so far made only relatively small contributions to raise the level of their support.   It urges Governments that in the past had made generous contributions to UNRWA to continue to do so in a timely manner and to strive to increase them.  It also urges Governments to fully fund UNRWA’s budget for the biennium 2010-2011, to ensure that the real value of contributions to the Agency was maintained, and to ensure that donor support for emergency-related and special programmes does not in any way decrease contributions to or divert them from its regular programme.  Governments are further urged, where possible, to provide multi-year funding to allow the Agency to better plan its activities.

Introduction of Draft

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Introduction of Working Group Report

Introducing the Report of the Working Group on the Financing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (document A/65/551), JOHAN L. LOVALD of Norway, the Group’s Rapporteur, said the Working Group was convened on an extraordinary basis and had provided an opportunity for the members to hear from the new Commissioner-General about the Agency’s grave financial situation.  He said the Working Group had met on four occasions in September and October to provide recommendations to the Committee.  The extent of the funding crisis was deeply worrying, he said.  While donors were considered generous, given the current financial environment, the current budget was inadequate to meet the growing needs of the refugee population.  The anticipated funding gap was not only undermining UNRWA’s services, but it was resulting in increased hardships for UNRWA’s staff.

The Working Group, he continued, stressed the importance for the Agency to sustain its work and intensify its fundraising efforts, and urged donors to come forward to fund the Agency’s important new initiatives.  The report also highlighted the importance of injecting $130 million to create a safety cushion for the Agency’s finances.  The report’s assessment also entailed reviewing the adequacy, in levels and scope, of funds received by the Agency from the United Nations regular budget, so that it could be enabled to comply fully with its General Assembly-mandated initiatives.  Given the Agency’s dire financial situation, concern was also expressed over the continued severe restrictions that hampered the reconstruction of Gaza.  The Working Group reiterated the belief that UNRWA played a vital role in providing services to the Palestine refugees, and that it was the responsibility of the international community to assist it in meeting that strategic goal, in accordance with the changing needs of the refugee community.

Statement by UNRWA Representative

LAURA LONDEN, UNRWA’s Director of Administrative Support, speaking on behalf of the Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi, drew attention to the Agency’s grave financial situation, as well as possible measures that could be taken to improve its outlook and capacity to utilize voluntary funds more effectively.  She apologized that the anticipated report of the Secretary-General was not ready, but said that, despite the delay, UNRWA welcomed the opportunity to have an interactive debate on the longer-term trends affecting the Agency.

The number of Palestine refugees dependent on UNRWA services in the areas of education, health, relief and social welfare and camp infrastructure had been growing steadily, she said.  Almost 5 million persons were now registered with the Agency, more than six times the original number in 1950.  The majority relied on UNRWA for public sector-style services, and regrettably, despite a deep thirst for self-improvement, poverty and unemployment among the refugees were deep-rooted.  Throughout the Agency’s history, funds made available to UNRWA had not kept pace with the growing numbers of refugees.  At times, the situation had worsened, obliging the Agency to turn to Members of the General Assembly for urgent assistance.  This was just such an occasion.

Over the years, she said, UNRWA’s major donors had responded magnificently to changing needs and circumstances, especially to the bouts of violence that had scarred the region.  Apart from the need to deliver more complex programmes for the refugees, challenges arose from several sources:  a more challenging operational environment; more rigorous monitoring for donors; and increased demands from the General Assembly.  Three months ago, the Agency was seriously concerned it would not be able to sustain its operations.  Thanks to extraordinary contributions by the three largest donors, that dire prospect might have been averted.  But the Agency was still on a “knife edge”.  Management, for its part, had exercised maximum austerity and fiscal prudence.

She said she was aware of concerns informally expressed by some Member States that if they were to agree to widen the scope of funding from the regular budget it would set up a negative precedent.  That was not the case, but faced with the structural deficit expected to worsen in coming years, the Agency turned to the General Assembly as a last resort.  She drew a historical parallel, saying that, in the early 1970s, the needs of the Palestinian refugees looking to UNRWA were rapidly outstripping donor income and the Agency had then faced the stark reality that it could not continue.  In 1974, the General Assembly stepped in and covered international staff salaries out of the regular budget.  Today, the situation was at a similar juncture, but the difference this time was that UNRWA’s management was simultaneously attempting to strengthen its overall capacity and carry out reforms.

Meanwhile, when measured as a proportion of overall financial needs, that financial cushion authorized by the General Assembly 36 years ago was shrinking in its real value, she said.  As an agency that performed life-saving human development work in the Middle East, day-in and day-out, when management-related requirements competed for dwindling financial resources with essential programme and emergency demands, it should be evident that the latter must prevail.  It was a worrying fact that UNRWA no longer had a working capital reserve.  “We do not seek a replenishment from the United Nations regular budget.  That would be unreasonable in the current era of budget austerity,” she said, but added that the situation was an “uncomfortable fact of life”.  She welcomed advice on how to restore the state of the Agency’s financial health.

Continuing, she said that a logical next step could be for the General Assembly to reconsider the adequacy of financial arrangements it made for UNRWA back in 1974, expanding the scope of funding provided by the United Nations regular budget from its present coverage of most international staff salaries to also pay for some Headquarters functions, as well as essential new management-related expenditures.  In short, the status quo was unsustainable.  Member States had always shown an impressive degree of solidarity.  “You have never let us down in the past, and I am confident that will you not do so now in our moment of need,” she said.

Dialogue

The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations expressed appreciation for the presentation, as it was an important complement to the report submitted earlier to the Committee.  She also thanked Norway in its capacity as Rapporteur, and expressed appreciation to the members of the Working Group to seek to secure the financial security of the Agency, and reiterated gratitude to the entire donor community for ensuring the efficacy and quality of UNRWA’s assistance to the Palestine refugees.

The delegate said that the difficulties faced by the Agency were structural in nature, and that that must be taken into consideration.  The attention and energy of the Commissioner-General continued to be diverted by the financial crisis and the constant need to expand donor funding.  The funding crisis, along with the challenges on the ground, affected UNRWA’s services and its ability to meet the basic needs of the Palestine refugees.

She asked Ms. Londen for further clarification on UNRWA’s worsening financial situation for the past several years, and asked what was different at this point in time that made the Agency make its appeal to the General Assembly for assistance.  She also asked what priorities the Agency intended to undertake if it received the additional funding from the General Assembly.

The representative of Lebanon noted that the funding shortfall had gone from $100 million to $30 million and thanked the United States, United Kingdom and European Union for their contributions.  At the same time, the delegate called on all donors to contribute to UNRWA to overcome the shortfall.  There was some confusion regarding the general fund versus emergency appeals; delegates understood that there was a problem with general funds, but with emergency funds, the problem was political and due to the blockade, because projects such as schools could not be finished.

He said he supported the idea of using assessed contributions and felt it was only fair to apply those to administrative expenditures to improve UNRWA’s administration.  He noted that the Agency incurred expenses from the taxes levied by the occupying Power on goods brought in.  He thanked the donors once again.

In response to a question about why UNRWA was seeking the financial support through the General Assembly at this time, Ms. Londen reiterated that it was a last resort.  In the course of the last five years, outlay had outstripped income, and there was no working capital left, she explained.

Regarding the question about funding priorities, she said the General Assembly mandated different requirements, such as safety and security of staff and administration, but if funding came, it would be prioritized effectively.  She highlighted that safety of staff would remain important.


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For information media • not an official record

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