Strong Diplomatic and Donor Support for UNRWA at the Ministerial-level Meeting Hosted by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in New York
There was strong diplomatic and donor support for UNRWA and its mandate at the Ministerial-level meeting which took place in New York during the General Assembly on 22 September. The meeting, entitled “Giving Hope to Palestine Refugees”, was hosted by the OIC Secretary-General, H.E. Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, and co-hosted by the Foreign Minister of Sweden H.E Margot Wallström and the Foreign Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan H.E Ayman Al-Safadi. United Nations Secretary-General, H.E. António Guterres, addressed an important video message to participants.
The OIC meeting came six months after an unprecedented consultation of the Member States and a landmark report by the United Nations Secretary-General on placing UNRWA on a sustainable and predictable financial footing. It strongly confirmed support for UNRWA’s mandate and role, and it explicitly supported proposals to stabilize UNRWA’s long-term financial situation, with a focus on new avenues of partnership with the World Bank through a specific Trust Fund and the Islamic Development Bank through a distinct Waqf for Palestine refugees.
In addition, the OIC’s sponsorship of the event marked an important positive development in its relationship with UNRWA, following the strong support the OIC expressed for the Agency at its last Ministerial meeting in Abidjan.
On the 2017 shortfall, several delegations announced additional contributions, reducing UNRWA’s operational budget shortfall from US$126.5 million to US$77.5 million.
UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, told delegates that the meeting and their presence there was “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”.
UNRWA expresses its deep recognition to the OIC, Jordan and Sweden for this important initiative and its appreciation to the donors who have come forward with generous additional support.
One of the high points of the event was the address by Karim, a thirteen-year-old and the current President of UNRWA’s Central School Parliament of the Gaza Strip, and Rahaf, a sixteen-year-old from Jordan and a previous member of the UNRWA Central School Parliament of Jordan.
Karim told delegates that his presence at the meeting was no coincidence. “I was elected to be the President of the UNRWA Central Student Parliament of Gaza”, he said. “I represent 270’000 students” and “you must hear our voices”.
Rahaf stressed the potential contribution of her generation: “We are victims of a historic injustice and we know it. But we do not want the world to see us only as victims. We want the world to see our passion, our skills and our deep desire to participate and contribute. We want our rights to be respected”.
Reinforcing the messages of the two students, Mr. Krähenbühl emphasized “the responsibility towards Palestine refugee youth”. He said “while they remain refugees pending a just and durable solution, they are citizens of the world as we all are”; and he called for all to “match the courage the students show every day” and for delegates “to live up to their hopes and expectations”.
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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