UNRWA was established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.6 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA. (UNRWA photo)
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Ministers Ayman Safadi of Jordan and Ann Linde of Sweden hosted on Thursday the third Ministerial Strategic Dialogue, via telecommunication, to discuss joint efforts to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Participants included Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, Norway, the United Kingdom, the European External Action Service and the European Commission. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini attended the meeting.
The participants underscored the importance of UNRWA as a critical component for humanitarian relief, regional development, stability and security, and underlined that UNRWA must continue to operate in fulfillment of its UN mandate until a durable and just solution to the Palestine refugee issue is found in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions, including UN General Assembly resolution 194, and within the context of a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Commissioner-General Lazzarini briefed the participants on the many challenges UNRWA is facing in a region of political and economic turmoil, compounded by the COVID-19 crisis. He also outlined the severe financial situation of the agency and the need to achieve a more forward looking and predictable funding.
The participants emphasized the importance of UNRWA’s programmes in providing essential services to over 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in its five areas of operations, in line with UN values and contributing to the Agenda 2030, in accordance with UNRWA’s mandate.
The Strategic Dialogue members reiterated their full support for UNRWA’s mandate as demonstrated at its renewal at the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019 and stressed the need to translate that political support into financial support, to allow UNRWA to continue delivering its vital services to Palestinian refugees efficiently and without interruption.
Participants called for continued support to UNRWA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including through ensuring that the Agency’s flash appeals are fully funded. Participants also expressed appreciation for the capacity of UNRWA and its staff to adapt to the difficult circumstances, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Considering the Agency’s dire financial situation, the participants urged both current and new donors to do their utmost to close the funding gap for the remainder of 2020, in order to ensure that UNRWA is able to maintain its educational, health, relief and vital development services to refugees and to advocate for their rights and protection in accordance with its mandate. The participants agreed to work jointly to close the funding gap, including through outreach to other donors.
The participants stressed the need to move from short-term financial crisis-management to a more strategic, sustainable and predictable financial support, notably through multiyear financial commitments and core financing from a more diversified and expanded donor base. In order to sustain the work towards a more forward-looking and sustainable approach, the participants agreed to convene a larger international event beginning 2021.
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.