06 October 2016
From 21 to 23 September, members of the European Parliament’s Budget Control Committee and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs visited Lebanon and Jordan to observe the challenging conditions of Palestine refugees and the dedicated efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to sustain services to this vulnerable population, assisted by generous contributions from the European Union.
In visits to Burj Barajneh and Shatila Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon, the representatives of more than 11 EU countries met with Palestine refugees who have benefited from substantial EU support to the Agency’s health, education and camp improvement programmes. While walking through the camps, the delegates learned from camp residents about how EU funding had improved their lives through the rehabilitation of their dilapidated shelters, professional development of teachers and enhanced mental health services, in addition to other crucial interventions. The visiting delegates also had the opportunity to visit the Siblin Training Centre to discuss with young Palestine refugee students their hopes for the future.
On 22 September, the Budget Control Committee visited Baqa’a camp in Jordan where they met the Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations, Dorthee Klaus, and were briefed on the Agency’s services in Jordan, including education, health, camp improvement, relief and social services, as well as Agency-wide reforms aimed at improving service delivery to Palestine refugees. The delegates were updated on the close relations with the host government and the innovative role that UNRWA plays in the region. Following a tour of Baqa’a camp, delegation members met with a Palestine refugee family registered with the Agency’s Special Safety Net Programme, whom UNRWA provides with regular cash assistance to help them meet their basic needs.
“The Members of the Budgetary Control Committee have looked into how EU taxpayers' money is being spent on Palestinian refugees. Considering the long-term nature of financing of Palestinian refugees due to the lack of a political solution, we wanted to make sure that EU money is spent in a most efficient way,” said Inge Graessle, the Chair of the Budgetary Control Committee. “We were happy to discover that UNRWA has a similar meticulous approach to money spending as we in the Budgetary Control Committee and that they are trying hard to make the best use of any Euros they receive from the EU budget. We wish them all the best in their activities."
Civil Liberties Committee Chair Claude Moraes also expressed his views on the visit, saying, "The delegation wants to thank UNRWA for the hard work they are doing in tough circumstances. The EU is a strong partner of this work."
“We remain deeply grateful for our long-standing partnership with the European Union and are proud of the many accomplishments we have achieved with their continued support,” said UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell, who met with the delegates on 23 September. “Our partnership with the European Union – the Agency’s second-largest donor – is crucial in enabling the Agency’s service delivery and helping to meet the humanitarian, human development and protection needs of Palestine refugees in all of our fields of operations.”
EU-UNRWA: TOGETHER FOR PALESTINE REFUGEES
Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, 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 and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.
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