UNRWA Commissioner-General pays tribute to “extraordinary achievements”, praises “unprecedented diplomatic support” but warns of “risks to services”
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, has paid tribute to the Agency in building and maintaining “one of the most successful” human development institutions in the Middle East, making an “indispensable contribution to human dignity, to the pursuit of human rights and regional stability”.
Speaking in Jordan at the Advisory Commission of host governments and leading donors, Mr. Krähenbühl told delegates that UNRWA in its 711 schools “was equipping the next generation – well over half a million children – with skills for life”, with refugee girls “among the best performers”. The Agency’s Health Department had “invented and introduced the concept of the family doctor in its 143 health clinics across the region” and, in Gaza, UNRWA had overseen the construction of shelters for over 85,000 families since the 2014 conflict.
The Commissioner-General paid tribute to what he called the “powerful renewed engagement of the UN General Assembly” and the “inspiring unity” with which Advisory Commission members had answered the call for support, which he described as “truly global”. He outlined the recommendations in the report of 30 March 2017 by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on “sufficient, predictable and sustained” funding for UNRWA, about which he said there had been some progress, including towards the establishment of a Trust Fund at the World Bank and a Waqf at the Islamic Development Bank.
Mr. Krähenbühl told delegates that the shortfall in the UNRWA operational budget for the rest of the year was still US$ 77 million. He explained that he had informed the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York just ten days ago that this shortfall would put at risk access to services to refugees in all fields. He concluded with an urgent call for collective action to close this critical financial gap.
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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