14 December 2012
With reference to reports recently published in the media concerning UNRWA’s emergency appeal transition, changes in programmes, and the Agency’s inability to renew the contracts of 114 personnel, and taking into consideration the widely circulated misinformation regarding this issue, UNRWA would like to clarify the following:
It is important to note that the total number of affected personnel is not 850, as has been recently conveyed to the public by some media agencies. This is of special significance, since the total number of UNRWA employees under the emergency fund in the West Bank does not exceed 450.
In the spirit of transparency and accountability, we have engaged with the Palestinian Authority, relevant Ministries, refugee camp services committees, as well as our Area Staff Union, in the context of an informed, professional, positive and constructive relationship.
On 12 October 2012, we also communicated in writing to all of our employees, updating them with the latest developments and informing them that by the end of 2012 we may not be able to renew the contracts of 130 colleagues. Additional efforts were made to reduce this number to the final 114 contracts.
UNRWA’s top priority continues to be the delivery of core services to Palestine refugees. There has been no change in UNRWA’s mandate. Any reports to the contrary are incorrect. UNRWA’s historical commitment to Palestine refugees remains as strong today as the day the Agency was created. This commitment will continue until a fair and durable solution to the refugee question is found.
As is commonly known, in its delivery of services to Palestine refugees UNRWA depends almost entirely on the voluntary contributions of donor countries. As of late, one more challenge was added: the decrease in the contributions to UNRWA's Emergency Appeal by more than 50 per cent since 2010. Sadly, this trend is expected to continue due to the recent downturn in the global economy. The Agency’s humanitarian and human development services are put under greater strain as refugee population increase and there is an additional demand due to the humanitarian consequences of the occupation.
Mindful of the real human cost at stake, we have carefully reviewed the services provided under an emergency budget that is decreasing year by year, as the contributions allotted by donor countries decrease. This review was executed with compassion and sympathy for our beneficiaries, safeguarding to the extent possible the delivery of humanitarian emergency assistance in addition to our well-known regular core services.
In light of the above, and mindful of the necessity to continue delivering our core services to hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees in the West Bank, and after consideration of all available alternatives, we have concluded that we will not be able to renew the contracts of 114 Agency personnel by the end of 2012.
As painful as this decision is, it is the one option that minimises the impact on services to Palestine refugees in the West Bank of reduced emergency funding to UNRWA. In our efforts to mitigate the consequences of this decision – as relayed to the PA's Minister of Labour on Thursday 13 December and required by Palestinian labour law – UNRWA will be paying the appropriate compensation to all entitled personnel whose contracts will not be renewed. Importantly, and whenever possible, they will be prioritised for positions that might become available in the future, as per the recruitment regulations of the Agency.
Our Human Resources department has contacted each of the above mentioned 114 Agency personnel and has sent an official letter of notice informing them of the decision, in line with legal procedures.
While UNRWA appreciates the right to express dissatisfaction and the right to protest, the Agency is concerned about any action that might hinder the safety and security of our staff and facilities and/or to a disruption of our services. The impact of such actions, ultimately, will only affect the refugees.