– As delivered –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Acceding country Croatia*, the candidate countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Serbia*, the countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I would like to start by expressing once again the European Union’s deep appreciation for the invaluable work performed by UNRWA, often in very difficult circumstances. The European Union would like to salute here the brave and continuing commitment of all UNRWA staff facing danger to their own safety in their everyday work. I take this opportunity to extend my condolences to the families of UNRWA staff who died in the Syria conflict.
In a region that continues to be frequently daunted by conflict and unrest, the EU recalls once again the vital contributions that the Agency has made to generations of Palestine refugees and its ongoing efforts to help improve the living conditions and promote the human development of the more than 4.7 million Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.
The EU welcomes and tangibly supports the positive work being done by UNRWA in Syria, where Palestinians clearly are a vulnerable population suffering from the ongoing conflict. UNRWA is proving to be an effective partner on the ground in Syria.
Despite the financial difficulties currently affecting many donor nations, the European Union and its Member States remain UNRWA’s largest donor.
The EU’s contribution up till the end of May 2012, including that of Member States, represented 66% of all donor contributions to UNRWA’s regular budget.
Over the period 2000 to 2012, the European Union, has provided almost €1.4 billion of support to the Agency. The total contribution in 2011 directly from the EU budget amounted to €143 million, the second highest annual amount after 2009. The Member States of the European Union have also contributed significant amounts from their individual bilateral budgets. The total contribution in 2012 directly from the EU budget so far amounts to €113 million.
Every year, the biggest single portion of EU support, through the European Commission, is a contribution to UNRWA’s General Fund (as agreed in the recently-signed Joint Declaration) covering the Agency’s crucial core programme services in the areas of health, education, and social services.
The European Union, through the European Commission, is doing its utmost to help UNRWA close its financial gap for this year through an additional contribution to the General Fund.
Throughout the years, the European Union has emerged as UNRWA’s most predictable and reliable donor. We are well aware of UNRWA’s financial difficulties and the difficult context within which UNRWA operates. The EU and its Member States reiterate their unremitting commitment to ensure that UNRWA’s services are delivered to those who need these services the most.
The European Union continues to strongly urge new donors to commit financially to the work of UNRWA. We also encourage the Agency’s intensified efforts in mobilizing regional, private and emerging donors. With UNRWA’s budget increasing, and donor’s inability to keep the pace, we face a looming crisis if this is not urgently addressed.
In view of our considerable financial support, we consider UNRWA’s reform process as crucial particularly when it comes to budget clarity. We welcome Commissioner General Grandi’s personal engagement on this issue. Allow me to devote some time to the important discussions that are also held within the Agency’s Advisory Commission and to which the European Union will continue to actively contribute.
The EU continues to believe that UNRWA’s reform process remains a subject of crucial importance. We look forward to the implementation of UNRWA’s management and programme reforms. We also welcome the progress made in improving the focus on results- based management throughout the Agency. UNRWA must continue to put quality of services affordability, efficiency and effectiveness at the heart of its reforms as they progress. Furthermore, staff-costs constitute approx. 80% of UNRWA’s total cost. The EU would encourage UNRWA to closely monitor the increase of these costs which can in the long term threaten resources for the delivery of actual services to refugees.
We further welcome the steps taken by the Agency aimed at clarifying budget-related issues in relation with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission. As a step forward in enhancing donors’ understanding of the UNRWA’s budget and its complexity, we look forward to engaging on the rationale of the choice of activities to be financed by the Agency’s respective funding portals, inter-relations between programmes and different funding sources, prioritization, effective targeting of actions and sustainability. The European Union believes that UNRWA’s Medium Term Strategy will play an important role in addressing these issues and setting the framework for future financial perspectives, including budgetary implications.
Acknowledging a complex and evolving regional context, we are ready to engage with the Agency within this process and to maintain a dialogue in relation to its long-term vision and sustainability strategy. Our aim is to achieve more and better services for the money spent.
The EU appreciates the Agency’s steps towards improved clarity. We look forward to UNRWA also engaging with us on budget planning. The EU also continues to look forward to a comprehensive budgetary framework of all UNRWA activities while respecting the need for and existence of the different funding portals.
Let me conclude by stating once again that the European Union is committed to its support to the crucial work that UNRWA has been doing for over 60 years to support Palestine refugees. The EU is determined to ensure that the essential humanitarian and development needs of refugees are continually met until there is a just, fair and agreed solution to the refugee question as part of a comprehensive future settlement of final status issues.
Thank you Mr. Chairperson.
* Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.