Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary
Contributions to UNRWA
1st Meeting (AM)
FOR 2002, $6.83 MILLION FOR EMERGENCY APPEAL
Seventeen donor countries this morning pledged $47.23 million for the 2002 regular budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at a meeting of the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary Contributions, as well as $6.83 million for an emergency appeal launched on 22 June.
Addressing the meeting, Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea), the President of the General Assembly, said that as the difficulties in the Middle East were increasing, it was important for the international community to reaffirm its support for UNRWA. The agency was an essential lifeline for Palestinian refugees in the region, providing elementary and preparatory schooling to nearly 500,000 pupils, half of whom were girls. Further, UNRWA offered job training to some 5,000 students covering skills essential to the modern economy, such as information and computer technology, and provided basic preventive, curative and maternal and child health services to the entire registered refugee population.
UNRWA’s Commissioner General Peter Hansen said that since the escalation of violence in the past 14 months, the crisis among the Palestinian people had grown into a grave humanitarian situation. They had experienced a large loss of life, heavy destruction of property, and a sharp decline in living standards.
The increasing demands on UNRWA, he continued, had put pressure on its budget, resulting in a $38.7 million deficit. The agency’s schools, training centres, health centres and other installations were all showing the strain of limited expenditures on maintenance. The problem with UNRWA’s finances had not just been with a growth in resources, but with an insufficient growth in resources to keep up with growing demand. Although its 2002 budget, which totaled $330.7 million, was an increase in nominal terms over last year, it actually represented a decline in real terms when inflation and the growth of services -- more teachers, more health servers, more social service staff –- were taken into account.
Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, the observer of Palestine, said the situation on the ground in the occupied territories and Jerusalem had indeed worsened the situation of the Palestine refugees and had intensified the urgency of their needs. The number of hardship cases continued to rise. As a result, and in light of the ongoing financial difficulties of UNRWA, the pledges made today and their early and thorough fulfillment would greatly help the agency to continue to provide essential programmes and services.
Also speaking during the meeting, the representatives of Japan, United States, France, Denmark, United Kingdom and Italy expressed their intentions to make pledges at a later date, when their budget processes permitted.
HAN SEUNG-SOO (Republic of Korea), President of the General Assembly, said at a time when difficulties were growing in Palestine, all members were urged to affirm the international community’s support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by providing the financial resources necessary for its proper functioning during the year 2002. UNRWA had been established in December 1949 and represented one of the first humanitarian undertakings of the United Nations. It had since become the United Nations’ largest single provider of education and health, serving almost four million refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
He said the agency was an essential lifeline for the Palestine refugees of the region. It provided elementary and preparatory schooling to nearly 500,000 pupils, half of whom were girls. It offered job training to some 5,000 students covering skills essential to the modern economy, such as information and computer technology. UNRWA further offered basic preventive, curative and maternal and child health services to the entire registered refugee population, recording more than seven million patient visits to its clinics between mid-2000 and mid-2001. UNRWA also implemented innovative poverty alleviation and human resource development programmes, including skills training for unemployed women, and micro-finance lending to small entrepreneurs. During the last year, the agency continued to provide special hardship assistance to over 200,000 of the neediest refugees, including basic food aid and shelter repair, while simultaneously delivering such assistance to an additional 200,000 beneficiaries through its emergency assistance programme in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
PETER HANSEN, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said the persistence of the crisis had produced a grave humanitarian situation in which the 1.4 million Palestinian refugees whom the agency served in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had experienced much loss of life, destruction of property and a sharp decline in living standards. In keeping with its unique role as a provider of assistance to all registered refugees, since October 2000, UNRWA had responded to the situation by providing assistance through its regular programmes and through an additional emergency programme for the refugees affected by the severe decline in economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The prospects for a just and durable peace had undoubtedly suffered a setback. The humanitarian responsibility of the international community to assist the Palestinian refugees continued, and indeed, this was reflected in the General Assembly’s extension of UNRWA’s mandate for another three years.
Mr. Hansen said some three generations of refugees had passed through UNRWA schools, whose academic levels were among the highest in the region. Those generations had also utilized UNRWA’s medical services to attain health levels on a par with regional standards. All this had been possible because the refugees had worked hard to help themselves. The task of providing the more than 3.9 million Palestine refugees with effective services had become even more difficult as resources in the past years had not kept pace with growing needs. At the end of last year, there was a deficit of $38.7 million out of an approved budget of $300.8 million. The agency’s schools, training centres, health centres and other installations were all showing the strain of limited expenditures on maintenance. The problem with UNRWA’s finances had not just been with growth in resources, but with insufficient growth in resources to keep up with growing demand.
He said the agency’s biennial budget for 2002-2003 was $674.8 million. This represented the minimum allocation consistent with the maintenance of the quality and extent of the agency’s services in its five fields of operations. The budget for 2002 was $330.7 million. While projecting an increase in nominal terms over last year’s figures, it represented in fact a decline in real terms when inflation and the growth in services – more teachers, more health servers, more social service staff – for a rapidly growing refugee population were taken into account.
FEDA ABDELHADY NASSER, observer of Palestine, said the pledges and affirmations of support for the work of UNRWA ensured the continuity of the Agency's invaluable and much-needed services for the Palestinian refugees. She thanked all the donor countries who had made generous pledges as well as those who increased their contributions and responded to UNRWA's emergency appeals throughout the difficult year, helping in some measure to alleviate the financial crisis facing the Agency.
The situation on the ground in the occupied territories and Jerusalem had indeed worsened the situation of the Palestine refugees and had intensified the urgency of their needs, she added. The number of hardship cases continued to rise. As a result and in light of the ongoing financial difficulties of UNRWA, the pledges made today and their early and thorough fulfillment, would greatly help the Agency to continue to provide essential programmes and services. UNRWA's continued operation in all its fields of operation, with sufficient resources, was imperative for meeting the existing needs of all the Palestinian refugees.
Mr. Hansen, making a closing statement, expressed sincere thanks to every donor, especially those today who maintained the contribution levels of last year, or even increased their donations. It was hoped the improvements seen from UNRWA were not just blips on the radar, but rather a trend that would continue in the future. It was mentioned that UNRWA should perhaps widen its donor base – it would continue its efforts in that direction, both with the Arab countries, who agreed to carry a larger part of the burden, and with the private sector to help improve various aspects of the programmes, especially in the fields of education and health services.
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