“This means investing in the economic and social well-being of Palestinian refugees and advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, General Secretary António Guterres declared to the UN General Assembly ad hoc committee on voluntary contributions to UNRWA.
“It means investing in the future through the education of children and youth, girls and boys, young women and men, and… respecting the commitments of the international community towards Palestinian refugees and their rights until a just and lasting political solution is found.”
Out of sight
Mr. Guterres invited participants to “imagine for a moment that we are a young man or woman, Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon or Syria or Jordan or Gaza.”
He told them that a political solution now seems “more distant than ever” as there is no active peace process and the diplomatic four, made up of the UN, the European Union, the US and Russia, cannot meet as evictions and settlements continue.
While the war in Ukraine and other global events have pushed the Palestinian issue out of the media headlines and political debate, he said the international community must “work resolutely to resolve all crises,” including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the plight of Palestine. refugees.
The Secretary-General called support for UNRWA not only “a matter of fairness” but also “a barrier to the development of extremism” and terrorism.
Over the past ten years, the needs of the Palestinian refugees have continued to grow despite stagnating funding.
“We ask for your solidarity and your supportsaid Mr. Guterres, calling for pledges to close the gap between UNRWA’s mandate and its budget for essential services by the end of the year.
The UN chief explained the need to put the agency on a “sustainable financial footing”, which requires stable funding to achieve “sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding”.
“Millions of Palestinian refugees are counting on us to alleviate their suffering and help them build a better future. We cannot let them down,” he said.
Two states side by side
The Secretary-General also reaffirmed the importance of efforts to make Israel and Palestine two States living side by side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.
“But until then, UNRWA remains vital in supporting those in need,” he said, reminding member states that they “collectively committed themselves to helping Palestine refugees” by creating and maintaining the agency.
Mr. Guterres described how their contribution will enable more than half a million children to receive a quality education in UNRWA schools; allow 140 clinics to offer more than eight million medical consultations annually; and provide cash, food aid and social services to millions of people where poverty rates can exceed 80 percent.
“Multilateralism requires not only political commitment, but also resources to implement them,” the UN chief continued, promising to use “every opportunity to serve Palestine refugees in accordance with UNRWA’s mandate.”
“Let’s commit to support UNRWA and leave no one behind.”
The event is chaired by Assembly Chairman Abdullah Shahid. indicated that UNRWA and its budget are “moving in opposite directions”.
“To put it simply, there is still a lot to be done, even as financial resources continue to shrink,” he said, noting a $1.6 billion budget deficit for 2022.
UNRWA’s current requests include additional emergency funding to meet humanitarian needs in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon.
To support millions of Palestinian refugees with vital services and programs, the UN spokesman called on the international community and the UN General Assembly to “close this funding gap.”
Mr. Shahid pleaded with ambassadors to “look beyond monetary value” to “commitments, principles and values for global peace and security, for peoples, prosperity and the planet.”
“It’s about giving a sense of normalcy to young people who, in their own words, “didn’t choose to live under war and blockade.”“, he said, urging participants to “meet these commitments to the millions of lives and livelihoods that depend on us.”
A decade of stagnation
Over the past 10 years, the stagnation of UNRWA funds has caused disruptions and revenue unpredictability, forcing the agency to operate for a decade with an average deficit of about $100 million, according to UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini.
“UNRWA cannot be compared to any other UN humanitarian agency,” he said, drawing attention to its authority to provide “government-like services” without the government’s fiscal and financial instruments.
“We have exhausted our financial reserves and reached the limits of spending controls and austerity measures.which are now affecting the quality of services.
The head of UNRWA stressed that “despair and hopelessness” are growing in the refugee camps; deteriorating political, economic and security conditions in the West Bank; Gaza is struggling to recover from the effects of last year’s conflict.