Supporting the UN Palestinian refugee agency means ‘investing in stability for the region’ — Global Issues

“It means investing in the economic and social well-being of Palestine refugees and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Secretary-General António Guterres told the UN General Assembly. for that committee for voluntary contributions to UNRWA.

“It means investing in the future through the education of children and youth, girls and boys, women and young men and… honoring the international community’s commitment to Palestinian refugees and their rights until a just and lasting political solution is found.”

off the radar

Mr. Guterres invited participants to “imagine for a moment that we are a young Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan or Gaza”.

He said that for them, a political solution now seemed “further than ever” with no active peace process and the diplomatic Quartet – made up of the UN, European Union, United States and Russia – unable to come together as the evictions and settlements continue.

While the war in Ukraine and other global events have taken the Palestinian issue out of media headlines and political debate, he said the international community needs to “work to deal with all crises with determination”, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Palestinian situation. refugees.

The Secretary-General described support for UNRWA not only as “a matter of justice” but also as “a barrier to the progression of extremism” and terrorism.

Many families in Gaza need humanitarian aid to survive and receive food packages from the UN agency working in the region, UNRWA.

© UNRWA/Hussein Jaber

Many families in Gaza need humanitarian aid to survive and receive food packages from the UN agency working in the region, UNRWA.

Chronic underfunding

Over the past ten years, the needs of Palestinian refugees have continued to increase, even as funding has stagnated.

We ask for your solidarity and support” Guterres said, appealing to pledges to bridge the gap between UNRWA’s mandate and its budget for vital services by the end of the year.

The UN chief explained the need to place the agency on a “durable financial foundation”, which requires stabilized funding to achieve “sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding”.

“Millions of Palestinian refugees count on us to alleviate their suffering and help them build a better future. We cannot let them down,” she explained.

Two States side by side

The Secretary-General also reiterated the importance of efforts to realize Israel and Palestine as two states living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as their capital.

“But until then, UNRWA remains vital in supporting those in need,” he said, reminding member states that they have “collectively committed to providing assistance to Palestine refugees” by creating and supporting the agency.

Mr. Guterres highlighted how his contributions would enable more than half a million children to receive quality education in UNRWA schools; enable 140 clinics to offer more than eight million medical appointments per year; and providing cash, food assistance and social services to millions of people where poverty rates can exceed 80 percent.

“Multilateralism requires not only political commitments, but also resources to implement them,” continued the UN chief, promising to seek “all avenues to sustain services to Palestinian refugees in accordance with the UNRWA mandate.”

“Let’s commit to supporting UNRWA and not leaving anyone behind.”

The World Food Program (WFP) helps combat malnutrition and iron deficiency in Palestine.

PAM

The World Food Program (WFP) helps combat malnutrition and iron deficiency in Palestine.

‘Opposite Directions’

In hosting the event, Assembly President Abdulla Shahid highlighted that UNRWA and its budget are “moving in opposite directions”.

“Put simply, there is more to accomplish even as financial resources continue to dwindle,” he said, noting a budget deficit of $1.6 billion for 2022.

UNRWA’s current requests include additional emergency funding to address humanitarian needs in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon.

To support millions of Palestinian refugees with vital life-saving services and programs, the UN official implored the international community and the UN General Assembly “to fill this funding gap”.

beyond the money

Mr. Shahid implored the ambassadors to “look beyond monetary value” to “commitments, principles and values ​​for global peace and security, for peoples, prosperity and the planet”.

It is about providing a sense of normality to young people who, in their own words, ‘did not choose to live through the war and the blockade.‘” he said, urging participants to “deliver on these commitments for the millions of lives and livelihoods that count on us.”

decade of stagnation

Over the past 10 years, UNRWA’s stagnant funds have caused disruptions and income unpredictability that have forced the agency to operate for a decade with an average deficit of about $100 million, said UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini.

“UNRWA cannot be compared to any other UN humanitarian agency,” he said, calling attention to its mandate to provide “government-like services” without the fiscal and financial tools of a government.

We have exhausted our financial reserves and reached the limits of cost control and austerity measures”, which are now affecting the quality of services.

The UNRWA chief highlighted that “desperation and hopelessness” are growing in the refugee camps; deteriorating political, economic and security conditions across the West Bank; and Gaza is struggling to recover from the impact of last year’s conflict.

A child cares for her sleeping baby siblings in a classroom at the UNRWA Salah Eddin School in Gaza.

© 2021 UNRWA/Mohamed Hinnawi

A child cares for her sleeping baby siblings in a classroom at the UNRWA Salah Eddin School in Gaza.

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