UN agency for Palestine refugees calls for stable funding

A Palestinian man holds a flag during a protest against U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to the West Bank, in Gaza City, on Jan. 31, 2023. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to the West Bank prompted outrage among many Palestinians, who demonstrated on Tuesday to express their opposition to the U.S. top diplomat's presence in the Palestinian territory. (Photo by Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua)

 The deputy chief of the UN agency for Palestine refugees on Monday called for stable funding for the agency, saying the status quo is no longer sustainable.

The lack of adequate, sustainable and predictable funding has put the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in an impossible situation. The agency has reached the limit of what it can do with the resources available today, said UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth.

“Our total income in 2022 was approximately the same as in 2013, while the needs and costs are exponentially greater today. The status quo is no longer sustainable,” she told the Security Council in a briefing.

“And as the quality of our services declines, so will our ability to contribute to the region’s stability. Avoiding UNRWA’s implosion is our collective interest — and should be our collective responsibility,” she said via a video link. “In the absence of a political solution, UNRWA remains irreplaceable, including in terms of its stabilizing role.”

UNRWA’s contribution to peace and security is extraordinarily cost-effective, helping to secure the present and future of millions of people in a highly fragile region, she said.

UNRWA continues to deliver on its mandate despite many challenges. By providing public-like services, including education, health and social services, UNRWA has contributed to the human development of Palestine refugees and has helped maintain a relatively stable environment around them, said Stenseth.

“As we look at the Middle East, UNRWA remains one of the few standing pillars of stability — a pillar of stability for Palestine refugees, for the countries that host them, and for the region. UNRWA is in fact one of the most successful multilateral and collective efforts of the last 75 years,” she said.

There can be neither peace nor security in the region without the fulfillment of the basic rights of all, including Palestine refugees, she said. “We call on you today not to abandon them. We call on you today to give them back hope by redoubling efforts to find a political solution. And we call on you and all (UN) member states to continue supporting UNRWA politically and financially, ensuring that it has the resources it needs to deliver on its mandate.”

UNRWA, established by the UN General Assembly in 1949, currently helps some 5.9 million Palestine refugees and their descendants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria as well as in West Bank and Gaza. The agency is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states. ■

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