The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) ended its conference marking UNRWAs 60th anniversary on Wednesday 16th December on a high after many months of grueling preparation.
Mike Foster MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development participated in the final session which focused on the international response to the plight of Palestinian refugees. Mr. Foster spoke of the long and terrible ordeal which Palestinian refugees have faced over the past six decades and stressed the responsibility of the international community in supporting them through UNRWA.
The minister came at the end of a very successful day where academics, politicians and various officials discussed UNRWAs role in the region and the wider political developments that affect UNRWA and the Palestinian refugees.
After the opening session, which included, General Director of PRC, Majed Al Zeer, Claire Short MP and UNRWA spokesperson, Sami Meshasha, a number of academics presented the ideological foundation of Zionist policies which gave birth to the refugee crises and its terrible affects in the region. World renowned professor Norman Finkelstein spoke at great length and in vivid detail of the Gaza assault and the Goldstone report.
The first session provided evidence presented through cogent and objective analysis of the terrible inhumanity inflicted in the region and against the Palestinian refugees in particular by the Zionist ideology.
The conference discussed in great detail UNRWAs tremendous contribution in the region. A report on the parliamentary delegation to Syria was discussed and among the panelist included the Syrian ambassador H.E Sami Kiyami, Jeremy Corby MP and Baroness Jenny Tonge. They spoke of the plight of Palestinian refugees from Iraq and the collaborative effort between the Syrian government, UNRWA, UNHCR and the PRC in securing a resettlement plan until their right of return is guaranteed.
The third session focused on UNRWAs regional challenges and presentations were given by the former Lebanese ambassador, Khalil Makkawi, UNRWA official Sami Meshasha and representatives of Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon. Results of a survey carried out in the refugee camps of Syria and Lebanon was also presented where the almost unanimous support for UNRWA was highlighted.
‘This conference came at a crucial moment in UNRWAs history. With donor countries feeling the pinch of the recession there will be significant cuts in UNRWAs funding. Added to this is the growing demand for extra services and the continued malicious attacks against UNRWA, all of which creates a precarious and hazardous time for UNRWA and the refugees as a whole' said Majed Al Zeer.
The conference established UNRWA as an indispensible institution. One can debate the success and failure of UNRWAs projects, one could even justifiably criticize UNRWA on some points but one cannot talk of its dissolution as an institution. The principals that have mandated UNRWA are based on international law and universal values and moral our obligations to humanity and to question its existence are to question these values.