23 February 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Mr. Carl Hallergard, Chargé d’Affaires a.i., Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on Post-conflict peacebuilding: review of peacebuilding architecture
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We meet at a time when UNRWA’s financial situation remains precarious enough to threaten the continuity of UNRWA’s essential and core services to Palestine refugees. The 2016 Programme Budget has been suffering from a deficit level very similar to that of 2015. The outlook for 2017 is equally worrying.
The work of UNRWA management to counter the shortfall and contain its impact has been commendable. This requires recognition and has our full support. However, at the same time we must note that UNRWA’s efforts have not yielded the financial stability we all seek for the Agency and are not sufficient alone to solve UNRWA’s recurrent financial crises.
For some time now, UNRWA has been implementing its programmes against tremendous operational and financial challenges. We understand these challenges. We also understand the various challenges the countries in which Palestine refugees sought refuge have been facing. UNRWA has done its best to provide support to neighbouring countries affected by challenges related to Palestine refugees in the past and continues to do so in an ever more difficult regional context. Host countries have made substantial contributions over the past decades. We rely on their continued support in moving forward.
As the EU and its Member States, we do not stand idle, either, and respond to these challenges in several ways:
Firstly, we closely accompany UNRWA’s work and as partners we provide our opinion and critical advice, as we deem necessary, to enable the Agency to continue providing core services to Palestine refugees who depend on it.
Secondly, and not less importantly, we assure UNRWA of our continued political support. This we express not only today in the UNRWA Advisory Commission or in Sub-committee meetings, to which we actively participate, but equally in other local, regional or global fora.
And thirdly, we follow up on our words and remain the largest providers of international assistance to Palestine refugees. In 2016 we contribute over 51% (i.e. $ 279 million) of all donor support to UNRWA’s Programme Budget, and about 37% (i.e. $ 404 million) of all contributions to the Agency’s overall operations.
In doing so we are not alone but it is obvious that more predictability and also increased burden-sharing across a wider group of donors is needed to support UNRWA in addressing its recurrent financial deficits. The repeated crisis evidently highlights that UNRWA’s financial shortfalls are structural in nature and need to be addressed as such. Well-defined measures are needed to stabilise UNRWA’s income as well as control its expenditure.
Again, while we as the European Union and its Member States commit to support UNRWA to the best of our ability, more international solidarity and increased burden-sharing will be needed from other donors, in particular regional partners, to ensure that UNRWA receives adequate resources.
Turning back to the Agency, we encourage UNRWA to continue with its fundraising efforts and management initiatives that are showing signs of increased efficiency. These are enhancing the Agency’s accountability and credibility. UNRWA’s efforts help us make an ever better case on its behalf and on behalf of Palestine refugees.
We have seen tangible impact from the ongoing implementation of health and education reform strategies and would welcome a similar comprehensive reform strategy for Relief and Social Services.
The contributions of UNRWA and its dedicated staff command our respect. Generations of Palestine refugees have been educated and provided with opportunities to live respectfully and excel as human beings thanks to UNRWA. UNRWA continues not only to enable and empower Palestine refugees, but serves as a pillar of hope that a better future for Palestine refugees is still possible.
To conclude, I wish to reiterate the commitment of European Union and its Members States to UNRWA and Palestine refugees until a just solution to their plight is reached. 68 years after what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, a political solution is urgently required to tackle the fundamental issues that would determine the fate and end the plight of more than 5 million Palestine refugees.
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