UNWRA for Palestine Refugees - Statement by Iceland
H.E. Ambassador Gréta Gunnarsdóttir
GA68 / Item 51 – United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
6 November 2013
At the outset allow me 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 now tangibly affected by armed conflict or humanitarian situations, a predicament that UNRWA has not faced in decades.
Allow me in particular to use this opportunity to express Iceland´s sincere appreciation to Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi, for his leadership and dedication as the head of the Agency.
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. UNRWA estimates that the number of people in need is rapidly approaching the total population of over half a million Palestine refugees registered in Syria. Thousands have been forced to leave their homes and have become internally-displaced persons (IDPs). Other Palestine refugees have been forced to leave the country altogether. They have to be afforded equal protection to others fleeing the violence in Syria in line with the Presidential Statement on the humanitarian situation in Syria adopted by the Security Council on 2 October.
As if all the challenges rising from the crisis in the region are not enough, the current situation of the Agency is also 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 and with reference to UNRWA´s 2012-2015 Mobilization Strategy we urge those Member States who are not yet donors to seriously consider becoming donors, to broaden the Agency´s donor base. In this regard we welcome, in particular, the engagement by members of the League of Arab States to achieve the 7.8% target for Arab government contributions to UNRWA's core budget.
Just as the refugees themselves the Agency and its staff are resilient and as stated in the Commissioner-General´s report before us, remain committed to building the human development of the refugees and improving their lives. Through this work the Agency remains a source of stability in a troubled region. We support UNRWA´s four goals for the Palestine refugees of a long and healthy life; acquired knowledge and skills; decent standard of living; and human rights enjoyed to the fullest 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.
UNRWA´s clients, the Palestine refugees, are very much a forgotten group outside of their immediate environment. It is crucial that their needs will be addressed in the current peace process. While their plight has not been addressed there will be a need for UNRWA, which work continues to be invaluable to the 5 million Palestine refugees living in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, who, without the support of the Agency, would be living in even greater despair. It is the hope of my delegation that sooner than later there will be a just and durable solution to their plight.
Thank you, Mr/Madame Chair