Nordic Statement on financing of UNRWA by Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson
I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and my own country Iceland.
Allow me to express our thanks to the Chair and co-chairs of the Steering Committee to assist the Secretary-General in carrying out consultations on this urgent matter. We also express our appreciation to the Secretary-General for his concise, action-oriented report on the operations of UNRWA (A/71/849).
UNRWA is an effective agency working in an extremely difficult environment.
The Agency has for decades worked at the nexus between humanitarian and development assistance that has been encapsulated more recently in the Grand Bargain. UNRWA is a provider of essential humanitarian and development services to 5.3 million people, half a million of them in the Agency’s schools.
UNRWA’s operations underpin stability and contribute to conflict prevention in the region. It is for this reason that host states with decades of experience consider UNRWA vital to stability and security, as well as to the well-being of the refugees themselves.
Yet the financial base for the Agency’s operations has become ever more fragile, while demand for its services has increased – partly due to the consequences of conflict. As the Secretary-General’s report states, “The recurrent financial crises facing UNRWA represent political, humanitarian and security risks”. The present situation and outlook for the region only reinforce the urgency of achieving sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for UNRWA.
The Secretary-General has given us a set of recommendations on which to act, individually, as groups, as Advisory Commission members and as the General Assembly.
Taken as a group, the Nordics are the fourth largest contributor to UNRWA and we have a long history of strong support. While we believe it desirable to reduce UNRWA’s reliance on voluntary contributions, it is clear that they will remain the bulk of its financing for the foreseeable future. They therefore need to be more predictable and sustained. We will study closely the Secretary-General’s plea to traditional donors, bearing in mind the Grand Bargain.
We support the Secretary-General’s plea to consider the possibility of increasing support from the UN’s regular budget for the biennium 2018-2019. We believe ways should be further explored of providing more support from the regular budget to more of the Agency’s operating costs than just international staff.
International financial institutions should also be tapped. Those of us on the Advisory Commission will also work to assist the Agency in exploring ways of cooperating with international financial institutions to establish funding mechanisms. At the same time we welcome the proposals of the Secretary-General to broaden the outreach for funding to regional and group financial mechanisms.
It is also vital that UNRWA maintains its focus on implementing its reform agenda and ensures efficient use of its resources, on the basis of its Medium-Term Strategy. Priority must be given to the most vulnerable refugee groups.
UNRWA is, among other things, a frontline conflict prevention mechanism. As the Secretary-General states in his report, in the absence of a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA’s mandate remains vital and valid, not only to the refugees but to the regional and the international community. If we accept this fact it is our responsibility as the General Assembly to ensure the Agency is equipped to carry out that mandate. The Nordics separately and as a group will continue to work with others constructively to achieve the goal of ensuring sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for UNRWA.