UNRWA for Palestine Refugees - Statement by Iceland
The Permanent Mission of Iceland
to the United Nations
Mr. Einar Gunnarsson, Ambassador
GA70 / Item 54 – United Nations Relief and Works
Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
10 November 2015
The Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations
800 Third Ave. 36th fl. - Tel 212-593-2700. - Fax 212-593-6269
First of all allow me to extend a warm welcome to UNRWA´s Commissioner General, Mr. Pierre Krahenbuhl and thank him for his report on the work of the Agency. It is clear from this report that UNWRA continues to carry out exceptional work in very challenging circumstances in the interests of millions of Palestinian refugees.
Allow me also to express Iceland‘s sincere appreciation for the work of UNRWA´s staff in an increasingly difficult situation in all of its five fields of operation. With all five tangibly affected by armed conflict or deteriorating humanitarian situations, UNRWA is faced with a situation that it was not tasked to address.
In Syria, the tragic conflict, with its unending brutal violence, is intensifying the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees and gravely affecting UNRWA’s operational environment. Thousands have been forced to leave their homes and have become internally displaced. Other Palestine refugees have been forced to leave the country altogether.
Growing numbers of children are being displaced, orphaned or dying trying to reach a place where there is some hope of a future. The future for far too many has been lost already to conflict and poverty.
We are now confronted with the world’s largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. It is estimated that over 3 million children in the Syrian Arab Republic alone are unable to attend school and we might possibly be facing a generation that will not receive basic primary education. This is in every way unacceptable. We cannot risk that these children be deprived of obtaining the very tools they need to build a future and to prosper.
Under these extremely difficult circumstances the assistance and protection provided by UNRWA is more important than ever. The UNRWA staff on the ground in Syria should be commended for their bravery and dedication, working under unprecedented level of stress and hardship.
In Europe we have also directly witnessed the desperate efforts, often with tragic consequences, of men and women fleeing their own countries in search of a safe future for themselves and their children. The conflict in Syria with its complex roots in the larger conflicts in the region has produced a scale of suffering which we all hoped never to see again. Allow me here to pay tribute to Syria’s neighbours who have quietly and resolutely given shelter to the great majority of refugees.
These are extreme circumstances that call for extraordinary measures. In this regard, the Icelandic government has decided to allocate an additional 16 million US dollars to address the crisis – to support the vital work of frontline UN institutions and to welcome increased numbers of refugees to Iceland.
As the Commissioner has stated, the Agency’s role as a reliable service provider to Palestine refugees contributes a measure of dignity and stability in the areas in which it operates. While the region is consumed by armed conflicts, growing extremism and expanding threats to the security of States and their citizens, UNRWA provides a measure of stability through its education, health, relief and social services, as well as camp services and infrastructure.
We support UNRWA´s four goals for the Palestine refugees and we would especially like to applaud the Agency for its determination to improve the lives of women and youth among the Palestine refugee population through mainstreaming gender and youth themes.
Without UNRWA we will remove the hope and dignity of millions of young people that often have little else.
Finally, Mr./Madam Chair, as if all the challenges rising from the crisis in the region are not enough, the situation of the Agency continues to be financially unsustainable, adding to its difficulties. UNRWA was never meant to be permanent but it will continue to be badly needed until a just and lasting solution is found for the refugees. In the meantime the international community must make every effort to honor its responsibilities towards the refugees. The Icelandic Government has and will continue to support UNRWA. We hope that other Member States will do the same.
Thank you, Mr./Madame Chair