Vingt États s’engagent à soutenir financièrement en 2016 l’Office de secours et de travaux de l’ONU pour les réfugiés de Palestine dans le Proche-Orient (UNRWA) - Communiqué de presse Français
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8 October 2015
Deputy Chief of Palestine Refugee Agency Paints Dire Picture of Financial Position
as Member States Announce Donations at Pledging Conference
Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA, 1st Meeting (AM)
General Assembly President Urges Continuing Support in Absence of Solution to Palestinian Question, amid Broader Refugee Crisis
A total of 21 donors today announced contributions, or their intention to contribute, to the 2016 budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as officials urged stable financing for the Agency against a backdrop of expanding crises in the Middle East.
The voluntary contributions were made during a meeting of the Agency’s Ad Hoc Committee, established by the General Assembly as the primary forum for announcing financial support. UNRWA has been providing human development and emergency assistance to some 5 million Palestinian refugees across its five fields of operation — Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — for 65 years.
Opening the meeting, Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, said the Ad Hoc Committee was seeking to arrest the long-term deteriorating financial health of UNRWA and put the Agency on a more stable footing. The rationale was abundantly clear, he added, emphasizing that, in the absence of a political solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA must continue to provide human development and humanitarian services to 5.2 million people.
Against the backdrop of a broader global refugee crisis, unrest in the Middle East, devastation caused by the conflict in Syria, recent clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the slow pace of Gaza reconstruction, he said now was the time to increase commitment. Governments should make pledges to back the reforms undertaken by the Agency towards the creation of a stable basis for its operations.
Sandra Mitchell, Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said the Agency was emerging from a financial crisis that was unprecedented in terms of its severity and the pain it had caused its beneficiaries. The Agency educated some half million children across the region, so the pain was both profound and widespread. In July, it had become clear that a shortfall of $101 million could force a postponement of the start of the academic year. As a result of one of the most effective resource mobilization efforts in UNRWA’s history, and the support of donors and host Governments, sufficient funds had been secured just in time, she noted.
Looking ahead to 2016 and beyond, she said the next phase of the financial crisis required robust internal efficiency reforms at the Agency alongside fundraising outreach. “It would be incongruous”, she pointed out, “to see UNRWA’s human development work decline when the Sustainable Development Goals demand the opposite.” In the face of the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, and the shortage of worldwide resources, the Agency faced immense challenges and recognized the need to develop new funding sources, such as World Bank trust funds, Islamic financing, the private sector and foundations. However, the bedrock of UNRWA’s finances must come from Member States, she stressed.
Noting the Agency’s efforts to deal with evolving emergencies, such as providing support for Palestine refugees from Syria, she held UNRWA up as an example of the integration of humanitarian aid and development assistance — a key demand of the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit. The ever-more grave conditions under which the Agency worked increased the need for its services and drove up its costs.
She went on to detail measures being taken by senior management to bring down operational costs and ensure UNRWA’s financial stability, including an increase in class sizes at 700 schools, a hiring freeze, an 85 per cent reduction in international consultancies and an exceptional voluntary separation package for staff. Those measures had generated unrest among the staff, the community and the region at a time when stability was needed, she noted.
UNWRA’s management was committed to excellence in both services and operations, as reflected in its Medium Term Strategy for 2016-2021 and as it developed its 2016 budget, she continued. Setting priorities, cost efficiency and innovative management of limited resources were the driving factors in preparing the latter. The two key objectives of the 2016 budget were to make it a priority to assist the most vulnerable Palestine refugees and to build their human capital. Management was also focused on reducing the current projected budget shortfall of $135 million to $81 million, which, if successful, would represent the first time in 10 years that UNRWA had a zero-growth programme budget.
She said that the Agency’s health-care reforms, whose key components were the family health team and an e-health system for electronic medical records, initially introduced at two health centres in 2011, were now in place in more than 100 health centres, with anticipated expansion to all 113 centres in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. The roll-out of the e-health system had ensured better medical records and management results.
As a cornerstone of UNWRA’s services, education was vital amid rising extremism, she stressed. While education was a “red line” for the international community, host Governments and the Palestinian community, difficult decisions must be made to ensure the viability of that core human development commitment. In that light, the Agency would closely monitor the impact of revised class formations and seek ways to offer additional support for larger classes as needed. Furthermore, UNRWA’s relief and social services for the most vulnerable were an invaluable investment, given that more than 300,000 Palestine refugees relied on them. The 2016 programme budget would shift from the provision of food baskets to the use of food vouchers to better support that population, offer greater food choices and decrease administrative and distribution costs.
Delivering a “stark” message, she warned that without the long-term financial commitment of Member States, who handed down the mandate for essential and life-saving services, the Agency could not be sustained. It bound the 5 million-strong Palestine refugee community together, and with its destabilization, in addition to lapses in education and health care, the community would scatter and Palestinian youth could become more susceptible to extremism. It was imperative that UNRWA be supported until a just and lasting solution was found in accordance with relevant resolutions. Thus UNRWA was reaching out to donors at an early stage to enable it to pursue the path of effectiveness and value for money. Its financial viability was a collective responsibility, she emphasized, while also noting the “tremendous generosity” of host countries.
The following countries made confirmed pledges in the following amounts: Turkey ($1.5 million), Argentina ($15,000), Kuwait ($2 million), Czech Republic ($123,000), Austria (€1.5 million), Belgium (€18.75 million for 2015-2017), Switzerland (CHF 18.5 million), United Arab Emirates ($1.8 million) and the Republic of Korea ($200,000).
The following delegations indicated pledges pending approval: Sweden ($40 million), Luxembourg (€3.75 million) and Italy (€10 million).
Further support for UNWRA was expressed by the representatives of the European Union, Netherlands, United States, Jordan, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Following those interventions, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, expressed gratitude to donors who had responded to the urgent appeal earlier this year, which had ensured that Palestinian girls and boys joined children around the world in starting the school year. He also thanked all donors, those who had pledged support, senior United Nations officials, and UNWRA staff, as well as the host countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for their cooperation and support stretching back nearly seven decades. Recognizing the importance of all pledges of support to UNWRA and expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people, he called for intensified efforts, and urged the mobilization of political will to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful settlement on the question of Palestine, and a just solution for Palestine refugees.
Deputy Commissioner-General Mitchell then made a closing statement and thanked delegations for their pledges.
For information media. Not an official record.