2009 Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean Prize
This speech was circulated not delivered
President Ruddy Salles,
Secretary-General Sergio Piazzi,
I am deeply honored to accept this award on behalf of UNRWA and its 29,000 staff in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and in the occupied Palestinian territory. I sincerely appreciate the Parliamentary Assembly’s recognition of the value of UNRWA’s work in a region so often affected by suffering, uncertainty and strife.
This award acknowledges the devotion of UNRWA’s staff to the agency’s humanitarian and human development mission. Most of our staff are themselves refugees, and it is they who have worked as sanitation workers, administrators, teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses to establish the UNRWA brand of proficient, selfless, compassionate service to Palestine refugees. I am proud to say that this passion for service, most dramatically demonstrated during the conflict in Gaza, has been a hallmark of UNRWA for sixty years. As long as our services are required, that passion will remain a part of who we are.
To my mind, there is a deeper dimension to this award, a dimension that transcends UNRWA and its staff. I refer to the community of 4.6 million Palestine refugees whose protection and care are the reason for UNRWA’s existence. We would be remiss if we failed to proclaim that this award also recognizes the trials Palestinians and Palestine refugees endure, the anguish of their dispossession and the legitimacy of their aspirations for a normal life of security and prosperity in a State they can call their own.
From my nine years of living in Gaza and working in the Middle East, I have learned that hope is inextinguishable in the hearts and minds of Palestinians. For them, the aspirations for a Palestinian State and a just solution to their plight are not mere dreams. They are realistic and attainable.
As I accept this award on behalf of UNRWA, I ask that we bear in mind the reality of hope for a brighter future for Palestinians and for all the peoples of the Mediterranean. Let us re-dedicate ourselves, in our respective spheres of life, to bringing to life their belief in a better tomorrow.