28 November 2011
UNRWA's Commissioner-General has called on the international community to renew and strengthen its support for Palestine refugees, particularly the youth who form a substantial and increasingly significant segment of the refugee population. Speaking during the opening session of the Advisory Commission, Filippo Grandi, who heads the Agency, noted that at a time when there are growing demands for human rights, fundamental freedoms and improved living conditions across the region, the international community, in consultation with refugees, must re-double its efforts to find a just and lasting solution that is consistent with UN resolutions.
In a speech which set UNRWA's work against the backdrop of the "Arab Spring", Grandi urged delegates to keep in mind the continuing relevance of UNRWA and its mission of human development and humanitarian support to refugees. UNRWA is the only agency of the United Nations directly providing essential services in education, health, microfinance and social safety-net support, to Palestine refugees.
Grandi called attention to the dire situation many Palestine refugees face, particularly those living under occupation in the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. He highlighted the issues of Israeli settlements expanding "relentlessly on Palestinian land, including in the East Jerusalem periphery". Warning of the implications of this for a future Palestinian state, Grandi expressed UNRWA's grave concern about the humanitarian consequences of settlement expansion and the demolition of Palestinian homes and property. "This deepens the isolation of Palestinians and creates fresh displacement," he said.
Pointing out that there are an estimated 3,000 demolition orders pending in the West Bank, the Commissioner-General warned: "The worst is yet to come, unless much more urgent and effective pressure is exercised to stop these abuses."
The Commissioner-General expressed gratitude to UNRWA's donors, including Arab donors, for their generous support for the Agency. He noted that pledges from Arab donors this year stand at US$ 144 million, including US$ 44 million from the Gulf Cooperation Council through the Islamic Development Bank.
Grandi, however, expressed concern about the future funding of UNRWA, particularly funding urgently needed to sustain food and cash assistance to the refugees most affected by poverty. He appealed to Arab donors in particular to continue their trend of donating generously to the Agency's General Fund, which finances core services in education, health and support to the poorest refugees.
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