The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is facing the most difficult financial situation since its inception in 1949. Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and the co-chairing Foreign Ministers of Jordan and Egypt are therefore convening an extraordinary ministerial conference in Rome on 15 March to mobilise both political and financial support for the Agency, and to find ways to assure sustainable forms of financing for UNRWA.
"Sweden has a long history of close cooperation with UNRWA. In 2017, we were the Agency's fourth largest donor," says Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström.
Today, UNRWA provides humanitarian aid for 5.3 million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The Agency provides basic education for more than half a million refugee children, primary health care for 3.5 million refugees, cash and food support for the abject poor and special programmes for vulnerable women.
"UNRWA carries out important humanitarian work and has a stabilising effect on a region severely affected by conflict and extremism," underscores Minister for International Development Cooperation Isabella Lövin.
UNRWA has faced recurring budget shortfalls in recent years, while at the same time the occupation, the situation in Gaza and the war in Syria have led to deteriorating conditions for Palestine refugees in the region. The financial support from the international community has not increased at the same rate as the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. The Agency is now facing a budget shortfall of USD 446 million. Sweden and its co-chairs are therefore convening this extraordinary ministerial conference to secure the financial means that UNRWA needs to fulfil its important mandate, pending a peaceful and just solution to the Middle East conflict.
The ministerial conference will be held on 15 March at the premises of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in Rome. Invitations have been sent to around 90 countries, including some Member States of the League of Arab States and the European Union Member States. The US has also indicated that it will be represented.
UNRWA was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949, after many Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes amidst the unrest following the establishment of the State of Israel. The Agency was mandated with providing humanitarian aid to Palestine refugees pending a just and peaceful solution to the conflict. Today, UNRWA supports more than 5 million refugees, one third of whom still live in refugee camps.