Giving Hope to Palestine Refugees: New Horizons for Sustainable Funding for UNRWA
“We are gathered here first of all to send a message of solidarity and reassurance to 5.3 million Palestine refugees,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl tells the high-level meeting “Giving Hope to Palestine Refugees: New Horizons for Sustainable Funding for UNRWA” hosted by the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), along with the governments of Jordan and Sweden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on 22 September 2017 in New York.
Your Excellency Dr Al-Othaimeen,
Your Excellency Minister Wallström,
Your Excellency Minister Al-Safadi,
Excellencies, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a distinct honor to address this important event and I wish to sincerely thank the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, H.E. Dr Yousef Al-Othaimeen for hosting this meeting and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Sweden for co-hosting it.
We are proud of our partnership with the OIC and immensely grateful to Jordan and Sweden for so consistently standing with UNRWA.
We are gathered here first of all to send a message of solidarity and reassurance to 5.3 million Palestine Refugees.
From East-Jerusalem to Jenin in the West Bank, from Rafah to Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, from Jerash camp to Zarqa in Jordan, from Ein El-Helweh to Nahr El-Bared in Lebanon, and from Dera’a to Aleppo in Syria, Palestine Refugees experience profound anxiety about their future. There is no horizon for them, neither political nor personal.
This meeting and your presence are also a powerful vote of confidence in the mandate of UNRWA and what many member states have called the Agency’s “indispensable role” in protecting the rights and dignity of Palestine Refugees, and providing crucial services to them.
Half a year after an unprecedented consultation of member states of the United Nations and a landmark report by the Secretary-General, today’s meeting is a unique opportunity to confirm new avenues of partnership with the World Bank and Islamic Development Bank, as part of the actions to improve the future stability of UNRWA’s financial situation and – above all – to sustain hope for Palestine refugees. In addition, the OIC’s sponsorship of today’s event marks an important step forward in its relationship with UNRWA, following the strong support the OIC expressed for the Agency in its ministerial meeting in Abidjan last month.
It is also a moment to call on the renewed generosity of many of our strongest partners to help us urgently close the current 2017 shortfall of 126 m USD, or else we will run out of money in a few weeks time.
We are gathered here today because exactly two years ago UNRWA almost had to postpone its school year for 500’000 boys and girls. This sent shockwaves through the refugee community and led to very strong reactions among hosts and also donors. It threatened the right to education and created deep concerns for stability in the region.
As conflicts, occupation, blockade, restrictions and exclusion continue to define the lives of Palestine Refugees, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that schools remain open.
More than anything else, we have a responsibility towards Palestine refugee youth. There is no better way to understand this than to listen to them directly and we have invited Karim, from Gaza and Rahaf from Jordan to address their message to you in person.
They are the rising generation of Palestine Refugees. While not yet citizens in full right of a state of their own, they are citizens of the world as we all are. May we all match the courage they show every day and promise to live up to their hopes and expectations.
I thank you.
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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