Created in December 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provides education, health care, and social services to the 5 million registered Palestine refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars, a number which includes all their descendants. Aid is provided to Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as those in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Non-Aligned Movement has commended the efforts of UNRWA in providing vital support and emergency assistance to the Palestine refugees in all fields of operation, and urged increased donor support to the Agency for the implementation of its mandate. NAM has stressed the necessity of sustained commercial flows, including both imports and exports, to promote the recovery of livelihoods, businesses, and industry in Gaza and its economic viability and to alleviate the staggering levels of unemployment and poverty.
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.
Non-Aligned Movement has allayed concern that UNRWA continued to face financial and operational challenges as the continuing turmoil in the region placed increasing demands on the Agency to deliver services amid harsh restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services. More than a quarter of Palestinian households lived in poverty and half a million school children were in need of quality education. In a recent meeting of the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, Cuba, associating itself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that UNRWA’s financial crisis had hindered the opening of 700 schools. Its report underscored the various setbacks it faced in carrying out its work, including growing violence, insecurity and despair among the community of Palestine refugees. Nevertheless, the Agency had achieved positive results in education and health care, in spite of those difficulties. In order to strengthen UNRWA mechanisms.
In the same forum, Bangladesh, associating itself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed grave concern over the safety and security of UNRWA staff, emphasizing that there could be no justification for killing and abducting United Nations personnel serving on the ground.
The heightened vulnerabilities of Palestine refugees living in Syria deserved additional attention, and the Agency needed sufficient resources to respond to growing needs for humanitarian and emergency services, but it now faced a shortfall of approximately $74 million, he noted. Urging international donors to continue their support for the cause of Palestine refugees by providing increased, predictable and sustainable resources for UNRWA’s operations, Bangladesh said that as a country which had experienced a large-scale refugee crisis during its war of liberation, Bangladesh felt full empathy and solidarity with the protracted plight of Palestine refugees around the world.
NAM has emphasized that United Nations entities such as UNRWA and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should never be without the required funding, and that measures were needed to make humanitarian funding more flexible and predictable, with less ear-marking and more multi-year funding. NAM has called upon the international community to shoulder its responsibility to fill the deficit and seek a financial solution for UNRWA.
India, one of the prominent NAM Member States, has been a prominent contributor to UNRWA. This was acknowledged by Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Pierre Krähenbühl, who on his visit to India in August 2016, expressed appreciation for Indian support to UNRWA and conveyed his determination to strengthen engagement with India, a country which has strong historical ties with the Middle East and links to the issue of Palestine.