Today, European Union (EU) Representative, Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff and the Director of Partnerships of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Karim Amer, signed the 2021an EU-UNRWA contribution agreement in support of the Agency's 2021 Programme Budget. The European Union’s vital support to UNRWA funds essential services to Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Under this agreement, the EU provides a contribution of EUR 90 million in support of the human development work of UNRWA for this year, in line with its mandate. Steadfast EU support has enabled UNRWA to provide frontline services such as health, education, social services, camp improvement and more, in the absence of a just and lasting solution to the plight of Palestine refugees.
The new contribution will help preserve access to education for 533,000 children, provide primary health care for more than 3.4 million patients and assistance to over 250,000 acutely vulnerable Palestine refugees, as well as a multitude of other services, at a time of extreme instability across the Middle East region. For five decades, the European Union has established itself as a key strategic partner for the Agency, supporting UNRWA in its efforts to help Palestine refugees achieve their full potential in human development despite their difficult circumstances.
In light of the Agency’s ongoing financial challenges, the EU has agreed to provide the totality of its funding immediately upon the signature of the agreement.
The EU’s commitment to Palestine refugees includes unprecedented support for the Agency’s Education Programme through its *Education For Life *campaign, part of which the European Union has equipped the most vulnerable and marginalized UNRWA students with tablets. This ongoing EU-UNRWA initiative, occurring across all five fields of UNRWA operations, supports children’s access to quality, inclusive and modernized education and ensures that Palestine refugee students are not left behind. The tablets will allow students to access the newly launched and innovative iLearn UNRWA digital platform, supporting student learning during the ongoing pandemic and beyond.
The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA – which marks its 50th anniversary this year - has evolved over time, with the EU and its Member States becoming the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This year the EU and UNRWA are renewing commitment to the partnership through signing a Joint Declaration, strengthening the political nature of the partnership and reaffirming the commitment to promoting the rights of Palestine refugees.
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 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. Thousands of Palestine refugees who lost both their homes and livelihood because of the 1948 conflict have remained displaced and in need of significant support for over seventy years. UNRWA helps them achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.
EU AND 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 5.8 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.