Al-Ahram, 28 June 2010
Over a period of 60 years, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has shouldered the burden of dealing with a chronic issue, which the intransigence of the Israeli occupation authorities makes more difficult.
And for the first time ever, the Agency held the annual meeting of its Advisory Commission (the highest authority that organises its work) in Cairo on 21-22 June. That was the chance to meet with Mr Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, who told “Al-Ahram” that the tragic situation of the 4.7 million Palestine refugees is regrettable. Grandi also said that the financial situation of the Agency is severe, as the Agency is in urgent need for 103 million dollars in order not to suspend its activities that some 30,000 people are participating in.
Grandi said that the world needed the crisis of the “Freedom Flotilla” in order to highlight the crisis of Gaza. In tragedies lie opportunities, and the opportunity we have now is to put an end to the blockade on Gaza. Grandi added that it is hard to make sure that the Israeli measures to ease the blockade (which are merely words with no actions until now) would lead to tangible results. He reiterated that it is important, for once and for all, to end the blockade and ease the life of people; pointing out that alongside understanding the security needs for Israel, the real needs of humans in Gaza should also be addressed by starting to implement reconstruction programmes that require the entry of massive amounts of materials. Grandi confirmed that the financial crisis of UNRWA is likely to get worse due to the world economic crisis as well as the decrease in exchange rates that caused losses for the amount of 20m dollars.
Regarding the way to deal with Israel in its capacity as an occupation authority, Grandi said: “we deal with Israel all the time, starting from dealing with ordinary soldier level and up to the highest levels. Israel is a member state in the General Assembly of the UN, which handles the renewal of the Agency’s mandate. However, Israel is not a member in the Advisory Commission of the Agency. Being an occupation authority, Israel has an obligation towards civilian people whom we provide services for them, and accordingly Israel cares for UNRWA’s role.”
Grandi expressed his hope that UNRWA’s mission would come to an end by way of finding a solution to the Palestinian problem, the matter that requires will and courage for it is a true problem on theground, which has political repercussions.