10 May 2013
The flag of Palestine and several European countries hung over a crowd of children running around and enjoying a day of fun-filled activities with their friends. Palestinians and internationals walked around various booths with an assortment of products including olive oil and handmade Palestinian embroidery.
This was the setting in Ramallah yesterday, where Palestinians and their supporters marked European Union (EU) Day, to celebrate the strong partnership between Palestine and Europe.
Partnering to make a difference
“The diversity of the products offered today is a testament to our close partnership”, said Representative to the European Union John Gatt-Rutter, referring to the different booths at the event, adding: “For Europe, Palestine is a crucial place. Both of our regions are going through turbulent times but one thing is certain: The EU’s relationship with Palestinians will remain strong.”
In addition to its strong support of the Palestinian Authority, the EU is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ (UNRWA) largest multilateral donor, enabling human development for the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in not only the occupied Palestinian territory, but also in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
“The EU is one of UNRWA’s greatest supporters, and is committed to assisting the Agency’s work towards developing the potential of Palestine refugees. On this day, we thank the EU for their constant support and look forward to future collaborations”, said UNRWA Spokesperson Sami Mshasha.
Fun in the sun
Several groups were present on this sunny day, providing an assortment of activities. “We are here to provide young children with some enjoyment and a break from the reality of the occupation”, said Ahmad who was dressed as a clown while painting a young girls’ face with a Palestinian flag. In addition to face painting, his group, Al-Farah Express organized a magic show and a theatre performance.
“We are having lots of fun here. I asked the clown to paint a flower on my face”, said nine-year-old Asma, who took a small break from the activities to show off her face art.
Samah, a fourth-grade teacher who accompanied her students also expressed her excitement, saying: “Our schools are underfunded and these type of activities makes a huge difference in the students’ lives. Putting a smile on a child’s face, even for one day can make a difference.”
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency‘s General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 72 million.
The European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. Between 2000 and 2012, the EU, excluding EU member states, has provided over EUR 2 billion of support to the Agency. This funding has enabled human development for the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.