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


Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary
Contributions to UNRWA
1st Meeting (AM)
GA/9680
PAL/1874

8 December 1999


DONOR COUNTRIES PLEDGE $172 MILLION TO SUPPORT UNITED NATIONS RELIEF AND
WORKS AGENCY FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES


Donor countries pledged some $172 million in support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), at a meeting this morning of the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA.

Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, said that the basic education services, health care and relief and social programmes provided by UNRWA were a visible reminder, particularly to the refugees, of the international community’s responsibility for their day-to-day needs. In recent years, UNRWA had added to those basic services a range of developmental programmes, focusing on job creation and income generation.

He said, however, that the gap between the resources provided by the international community to continue offering those services and the needs of the refugee community had steadily widened, resulting in an unavoidable negative effect on both the level and the quality of the Agency’s services. The Agency should be put on a firmer financial footing to enable it to fulfil its mandate. Delegates were asked to demonstrate to the more than 3.5 million Palestine refugees that their faith in the Organization had not been misplaced.

Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said the Agency would require $360 million in the year 2000 and $375 million in 2001 to carry out its mandate efficiently and to meet minimum refugee needs and donor expectations. Included in those amounts were $59 million and $65 million, respectively, for badly needed capital improvements. The Agency’s new budget aimed at dealing once and for all with the chronic deficit problems of recent years, which had necessitated measures, that had negatively impacted on UNRWA’S service delivery.

With spending per refugee now down to about $70 a year, from as high as $200 a year just a few years ago, a shift must be made from ideals to realities, he said. A chronically weak cash position had plagued the Agency in recent years, and funding required for outstanding costs had remained as a liability in UNRWA’s accounts. Financial deficits over the last few years had eroded the Agency’s working capital. The cash position remained critical, with a shortfall of $11.1 million likely by the end of this month. That was compounded by the non- payment of more than $37 million owed to UNRWA.

As pledges were made, delegates welcomed the Agency’s new budget format, saying it was more transparent and would improve UNRWA’s management.

Statements

THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, said that today, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) assistance remained as necessary as ever. The role of the Agency in furthering conditions of peace and stability had been recognized by all. The UNRWA provided basic education services, health care and relief and social programmes through a network of more than 900 installations operating under the United Nations flag. Those services and facilities were a visible reminder, particularly to the refugees themselves, of the international community’s responsibility for their day-to-day needs. In recent years, UNRWA had added to those basic services a range of developmental programmes, focusing on job creation and income generation.

However, the gap between the resources provided by the international community to continue offering those services and the needs of the refugee community had steadily widened, he continued. That had an unavoidable negative effect on both the level and the quality of the services provided by the Agency. The Agency should be put on a firmer financial footing, and statements of support should be translated into a level of financial support that would enable the Agency to fulfil its mandate.

In its budget for the biennium 2000-2001, the management of UNRWA had presented a clear picture of the Agency’s requirements, he said. That budget principally sought to address the chronic deficits that had plagued the Agency for many years. UNRWA’s financial requirements for next year were as follows: $280.4 million for the cash portion of the regular budget; $20.5 million in voluntary in-kind contributions; and $59.3 million in project funding. The Agency also urgently needed to build up its working capital, which had been seriously depleted, in order to finance deficits in the cash budget.

The UNRWA was the longest-running humanitarian programme the United Nations had ever undertaken, he said. It was the only such programme devoted to the well- being of a single people, and was the only programme that reported directly to the General Assembly. It was also a programme with a remarkable record of achievement in one of the most difficult areas. He asked the delegates to demonstrate to the more than 3.5 million Palestine refugees that their faith in the Organization had not been misplaced, and called on everyone to respond generously to help UNRWA carry out the humanitarian task entrusted to it by the international community.

PETER HANSEN, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said that today’s fiftieth anniversary of the Agency’s establishment could only have a very poignant and ambiguous meaning for the refugees. They knew that they had benefited from the only United Nations programme ever established to cater to a single national group and that, in UNRWA, they had had a unique international resource that had helped them to persevere and meet the challenges of daily existence. Yet, they remained a displaced people, many of them living in conditions of severe overcrowding and deprivation. It was essential that they be assured that they had not been forgotten, that their growing needs were recognized, and that the international community was there to see that they were provided for.

He said the Agency would require $360 million in the year 2000 and $375 million in 2001 to carry out its mandate in an efficient manner that would meet minimum refugee needs and donor expectations. Included in those amounts were $59 million and $65 million, respectively, for badly needed capital improvements in order to enable UNRWA to maintain its infrastructure. Above all, the Agency’s new budget aimed at dealing once and for all with the chronic deficit problems of recent years, which had necessitated a series of measures over the past seven years, resulting in a negative impact on UNRWA’S service delivery.

With spending per refugee now down to about $70 a year from as high as $200 a year just a few years ago, a shift must be made from ideals to realities, he said. A chronically weak cash position had plagued the Agency in recent years. Funding required for outstanding costs had remained a liability in UNRWA’s accounts. Financial deficits over the last few years had eroded the Agency’s working capital. The cash position remained critical, with a shortfall of $11.1 million likely by the end of this month. That was compounded by the non- payment of more than $37 million owed to UNRWA. In view of expected developments in the Middle East peace process, the year 2000 could not be allowed to be one in which the refugees were given the impression that the international community was no longer willing to respond to their needs.

Pledges

Country $ Equivalent National Currency

Norway 12,500,000 100,000,000 NOK Netherlands 5,000,000 11,000,000 NLG Cyprus 10,000 Spain 3,200,000 500,000,000 P Luxembourg 275,000 11,000,000 LF European Community 39,900,000 40,240,000 EU United States 80,000,000 Tunisia 10,000 12,000 TD Sweden 18,800,000 160,000,000 SK Greece 400,000 Switzerland 4,900,000 7,800,000 SF United Arab Emirates 500,000 Malaysia 20,000 India 5,200 225,000 INR Austria 360,000 4,920,000 AS China 60,000 Turkey 200,000 Bahrain 15,000 Kuwait 1,500,000 Germany 4,480,000 8,700,000 DM

Total $172,135,200

The representatives of Italy, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and Finland said that they would announce their pledges at a later date. The representative of Spain stated that, in addition to the pledge made today, his country was considering additional assistance to UNRWA later this year. The following countries made their pledges in writing: Egypt ($10,000); Czech Republic ($29,000).

The representative of Mexico spoke about his country’s contributions to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Pan-American Health Association (PAHA).

Concluding Statements

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that in light of the serious financial difficulties, the pledges made today were badly needed. He paid tribute to all those who had led the Agency over the past five decades, including the present Commissioner- General, and to all those who had worked on UNRWA’s staff.

Mr. HANSEN, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, expressed the hope that the close relationship between the Agency and the donors would continue. The UNRWA was facing a growing population and, in the coming year, would have to take new children into schools that were already cramped. He expressed satisfaction, however, that at a time when overall assistance to refugees was declining, UNRWA had, in absolute terms, enjoyed an increase in resources.


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