UNWRA for Palestine Refugees - Statement by Iceland
H.E. Ambassador Gréta Gunnarsdóttir
GA 67 / 4th Committee
Item 52: United Nations Relief and Works Agency
for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
7 November 2012
Before turning to UNRWA´s work, I would like to touch upon the situation in its operational environment in the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria.
The situation of Palestine refugees in Syria is of great concern; Violence and displacement resulting from conflict throughout Syria continue to intensify the humanitarian needs of Palestine refugees. Based on UNRWA estimates, 225,000 Palestine refugees are directly affected by the conflict. Thousands have become internally-displaced persons (IDPs), forcing them to leave their homes. Others have been forced to leave the country altogether. We must strive to treat those displaced by the conflict equally, regardless of their status or nationality. The international community must unite to end the violence and make a better effort to seek a political and peaceful solution. We applaud UNRWA´s efforts and those countries that have contributed to assist Palestine refugees affected by the conflict.
The situation of Palestine refugees in East Jerusalem and Area C is also of great concern; The Israeli practice of demolishing homes, basic infrastructure and sources of livelihoods continues to devastate refugee families. The same goes for settlements activities including the construction of the wall on occupied Palestinian land. In this regard we would like to call attention and raise concern about the village of Al-Walajeh, which is being encircled by the Wall and its mainly refugee population, is being cut off from their agricultural land. Similarly, we would like to rasie concern about the freedom of movement of Palestine refugees in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, where additional restrictions were recently put on access in and out of the camp.
As regards Gaza, where the vast majority are Palestine refugees, the United Nations have recently estimated that Gaza will no longer be “livable” by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health and basic education. UNRWA is a key service provider to those affected in Gaza and its ability to deliver is severely hampered by the Israeli blockade. We reiterate Iceland´s position that the blockade against Gaza is contrary to international humanitarian law and should be lifted immediately.
Iceland would like thank UNRWA’s Commissioner-General and his staff for their work on the ground in a volatile and often dangerous environment. UNRWA´s work is invaluable to the 4.9 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.
Iceland welcomes the independent evaluation of UNRWA and its assessment that organizational development did strengthen the capacity of UNRWA to serve Palestine refugees. We encourage UNRWA to continue its reform and change management process and reiterate our full support for the continued strengthening of the work of the Agency.
Despite UNRWA´s efforts, its important work is being threatened by the continuous and protracted financial deficit. Without the support of the international community, UNRWA will not be able to bridge this financial gap. My Government has and will continue to support UNRWA. We hope that other Member States will do the same and especially urge those who have not yet become donor countries to consider doing so.
The current situation is financially unsustainable. Even though UNRWA was never meant to be permanent, it is badly needed until a just and lasting solution is found for the refugees. The international community must make every effort to honor its responsibilities towards them.
Thank you, Mr. Chair