25 June 2019 – Statement by Ms. Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, before the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

Mr. Secretary-General, President of the General Assembly, Commissioner-General of UNRWA,

Excellencies,

On behalf of my delegation, I express our appreciation to the Secretary-General and President of the General Assembly for convening this annual Pledging Conference, recognizing UNRWA’s crucial role in providing vital humanitarian assistance to the Palestine refugees and the urgent need to mobilize support to once again address the Agency’s funding shortfall to ensure uninterrupted implementation of its General Assembly mandate. We are grateful for their strong support.

We renew our appreciation as well to Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl for his most able and dedicated leadership of UNRWA in these extremely difficult times. We commend his active outreach and engagement with the host countries and donor countries around the world aimed at securing needed resources and support for UNRWA, as well as his principled advocacy aimed at alleviating the plight of the Palestine refugees and ensuring respect for their rights and dignity, so inspiringly represented by the testimonies of the UNRWA student parliamentarians we heard today – Hanan and Hatem – and we deeply thank them for their messages of hope.

Today, we also reaffirm our deep appreciation to UNRWA national and international staff for their tireless efforts to uphold the Agency’s mandate in all fields of operation in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. It is their daily work, at times at risk to their own lives, that ensures delivery of the Agency’s core education, health, relief and social development programmes and emergency assistance and for some, including the millions of food insecure and abject poor, the provision of basic sustenance that is so critical for the well-being and stability of the refugee community and of the host countries.

Excellencies,

That UNRWA was able to remedy its financial shortfall and continue operations last year without interruption is a testament to the strong support for its mandate from every corner of the globe and to what can be realized when collective responsibility is upheld and fulfilled. We are deeply grateful to all donors that responded to the 2018 appeal for urgent funding, with special recognition of the 42 countries and organizations that increased their contributions, and helped the Agency to overcome an unprecedented crisis. We are grateful for the continued generosity and principled support affirmed again today.

We also commend UNRWA’s own response to the crisis. Through a combination of efficiency measures and focused engagement with key regional and traditional donor countries, the Agency remarkably ensured the necessary support. Such efforts were urgently undertaken with full consideration for the far-reaching implications that any suspension of services would cause within the Palestine refugee community, especially in the besieged Gaza Strip, where poverty, hunger and need are at dramatic levels and the situation is near brink of collapse under the weight of Israel’s inhumane blockade.

As reflected in the course of last year, absent a just solution, even slightest speculation about UNRWA’s continuity is cause for worry and instability in the refugee community. It is a community that remains deeply vulnerable and in need of assistance as well as the reassurance that they have neither been forgotten nor abandoned by the world. Your expressions of support and pledges today therefore have meaning beyond what can be expressed in these statements.

The international community’s response and support demonstrates the immense potential that respect for our shared humanity and common principles have to restore sense and value to our multilateral system as a primary means for addressing the serious challenges confronting us, collectively and individually.

Excellencies,

We thus renew deep gratitude to all governments that provided additional funding or accelerated their contributions to the Agency last year and did so once again at the start of 2019 and generously again today. We recognize also the strides made to develop new support modes aimed at securing more sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for UNRWA. This includes, inter alia, the important decision by the OIC Member States to establish a Waqf Development Fund in support of Palestine refugees, with UNRWA as implementing partner. We applaud this decision and urge States’ strong support.

Of course, today we must also reaffirm our recognition of, and gratitude for, the inestimable contribution that continues to be made by Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as host countries to the Palestine refugees and in support to and facilitation of UNRWA operations.

We also express deep appreciation to the Members and Observers of the Advisory Commission and the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA for their strong support of the Agency, the guidance provided, and the efforts to promote its financial stability and implementation of its mandate.

Excellencies,

The protraction of this injustice is what has kept more than 5.4 million Palestine refugees away from their ancestral homes and lands; denied their right to return, they continue to suffer one misery, one deprivation and one crisis after another, their despair deepening. The protraction and gravity of this injustice are what have kept this issue on the UN agenda for decades and brought us to this Pledging Conference time and time again, appealing for the international community’s compassion for the Palestine refugees and support for UNRWA.

We thus firmly reject malign claims that UNRWA is “part of problem”. UNRWA is rightly recognized globally as providing exemplary humanitarian and development assistance and contributing to regional stability. The international community’s continued failure to resolve this conflict necessitates the existence of UNRWA and, as we have heard today, the Agency has helped to alleviate the plight of millions, ensuring their well-being, development and protection, and remains indispensable pending a just solution, as attested to by the overwhelming majority of nations.

We similarly reject attempts to diminish or negate the rights of the Palestine refugees and reject their characterization as delusional and an aid-dependent community willingly living in camps. On the contrary, despite untold loss and tragedy, displacement and exile, they have been steadfast and contributed broadly, positively and proudly to their communities. They are themselves the UNRWA teachers, school principals, nurses, doctors, engineers, and technicians. They are the parents whose first priority has always been their children’s education and futures.

And, they are the youth, represented by the student parliamentarians here today, exemplifying the resilience, courage and immense potential of the Palestinian people. Your support supplants their fears with hope and revives their belief that justice and peace shall ultimately prevail, finally restoring to them their rights and allowing them to live in freedom, dignity and security.

Excellencies,

Again, we express our deep gratitude for the support that has been extended and reiterate our appeal for the continued support of donor countries and organizations, including multi-year funding where possible. We also appeal for renewal this year of the principled support reaffirmed across the years in the near-unanimous endorsement of UNRWA’s mandate by the General Assembly. This is vital for preserving and supporting UNRWA’s work, pending a solution to the Palestine refugee question on the basis of resolution 194 (III), as a cornerstone for a just peace and a key component of the Arab Peace Initiative, which continues to represent the most viable option for a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to this tragic conflict, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.

I thank you.