The Advisory Commission on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) met in Jordan on 25-26 November where it held strategic discussions concerning the Agency and the challenges it faces in providing services to millions of Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
“UNRWA has just received overwhelming support at the Fourth Committee of United Nation’s General Assembly, but has also recently faced the most complex combination of challenges in its 70 years of existence,” said Acting Commissioner-General Christian Saunders. “We are working hard to overcome these challenges with the help of our donors and host countries, but we urgently need additional funding if we are to ensure uninterrupted provision of essential services to the more than 5.5 million Palestine refugees we serve.”
The Advisory Commission is tasked with advising and assisting the Commissioner-General of UNRWA in carrying out the Agency’s mandate. The two-day meeting also included a focus on new measures to strengthen organizational effectiveness along with increasing transparency, efficiency and accountability.
The Acting Commissioner-General reiterated his urgent call for all partners to continue their support to UNRWA, and pleaded with members of the Advisory Commission who were still withholding pledged funds to disburse them immediately. He also asked all members to increase their contributions to meet the most pressing needs of Palestine refugees.
“UNRWA needs at least US$ 167 million between now and the end of the year to be able to continue its programmes in education, health, relief, social services, camp improvement, micro-finance, protection and emergency assistance”.
During the meeting, Germany announced new multi-year project funds of up to EUR 69 million for infrastructure projects and employment promotion. Germany pledged a further 2.5 million EUR for the Emergency Appeal in Syria, to be disbursed in 2019. The same evening, the European Union announced that it would release EUR 21 million in support.
“UNRWA is a remarkably resilient agency that is undergoing the worst financial crisis in its history and requires the urgent attention and support of the international community,” said Mr. Saunders, “The future of Palestine refugees is in your hands.”
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 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem 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.