Powerful political support was expressed for UNRWA, its mandate and critical services to Palestine refugees at a ministerial conference in Rome today entitled “Preserving Dignity and Sharing Responsibility: Mobilizing Collective Action for UNRWA”.
The conference saw additional pledges to UNRWA of approximately US$ 100 million by numerous donors as part of an international effort to address the Agency’s funding shortfall, and to sustain its “vital” services in an unstable region.
The meeting was convened by Jordan, Sweden and Egypt as co-chairs. Reflecting global commitment to UNRWA and the Palestine refugees, the conference was attended by senior officials from over seventy countries, as well as international organisations partnering with UNRWA.
Participants included United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.
The meeting aimed to ensure the collective action of Member States providing sufficient, predictable and sustained funding to UNRWA, by generating a collective dynamic to build new funding alliances, reaffirm support for UNRWA’s mandate and overcome the Agency’s unprecedented shortfall of USD 446 million.
Echoing many participants in today’s event, Ayman Safadi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, told the conference that Jordan, which plays host to over two million Palestine refugees, believed the case for bridging UNRWA’s deficit was overwhelming “UNRWA needs to deliver vital services to the Palestinian refugees, and this is an international political, legal, ethical and humanitarian responsibility”.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Margot Wallström, urged traditional and non-traditional donors to come together, given what was at stake.
“We have witnessed how UNRWA and its vital humanitarian work have been jeopardised time and again due to insufficient funding. We have seen how some countries take great financial responsibility for the organisation while others do not.
We are here because this is an organisation that is a lifeline for millions of Palestinian refugees”.
Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, told delegates that UNRWA’s emergency and human development services were vital to the dignity of over five million people.
Minister Shoukry stressed on the necessity of preserving the dignity and the status of the refugees, and called upon all concerned parties to adhere to international resolutions that aim at solving the refugee problem.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres paid tribute to UNRWA’s indispensable role. “By keeping half a million children in school and millions of people healthy and nourished, UNRWA is contributing to stability in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as in Jordan and Lebanon – and has undertaken extraordinary efforts to support Palestinians who have suffered as a result of the tragedy in Syria”, he said.
“UNRWA is an asset to the international community that we must protect and support. Let me echo the Agency’s fundraising campaign: Dignity is priceless”.
UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, outlined the steps that would come after the Rome conference. “We will now build on the momentum created here in Rome and take necessary actions and initiatives to close the rest of the shortfall. There is no doubt in my mind that we will have to work very hard every day of the year to achieve the result we seek.
We will do so with utmost determination and make our own contribution”, he said. “I will report back to the Secretary-General by mid-may on the progress. Palestine refugees deserve our collective mobilization”.