Commissioner-General Closing Remarks Launch of the Refugee Registration Information System

09 December 2009

9 December 2009


Thank you very much for the very enlightening and informative demonstration. As I leave the Agency in a few weeks, I am particularly happy to have had the opportunity to attend the launch of the new Refugee Registration Information System and see the fruition of a project I have followed so closely.

As you know, this project is a stepping stone in our efforts to reform the way the agency works so as to enhance the quality and efficiency of the services we provide to the refugees.

We are grateful to our donors, the Ruler of Sharjah, the EC and the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UK, Switzerland and Canada without whose generous support this project could have not come to such a successful point in its development. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Estarta Solutions for their help and hard work in developing the information system. Finally, a special word of praise should go to the PRRP Project Management Team, the five field scanning teams, and the Advisory Board members. To all, we are truly thankful.

This new IT system will enable us to improve UNRWA’s data collection and planning capabilities thereby responding more rapidly and in a more efficient and targeted manner to the needs of our 4.7 million registered refugees, in particular the most vulnerable who benefit from our social safety net program.

This project is also part of a larger project related to the digitalization and preservation of UNRWA’s historical documents and archives. Just a few months ago, UNESCO announced that UNRWA’s archives were being inscribed into UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Register, an honour which recognizes this agency as a reliable repository for Palestinian documentation.

We are extremely honored by the inclusion of some half a million images from our archives – moving and still- into such an eminent register; firstly, because it pays tributes to UNRWA staff – past and present- and the refugees we serve, and is testimony to the value of UNRWA’s work and its humanitarian and human development mission. More importantly, it is also recognition of the importance of UNRWA’s rich and hauntingly beautiful collection that chronicles in its minutest details the Palestine refugee experience, from the aftermath of dispossession through six decades of turbulence, exile and statelessness.

Through the preservation of 17.56 million historical documents housed in the family files, the Refugee Registration Information System is a first step in the wider efforts that will be made by UNRWA in the years to come to preserve and digitalize its archives.

Overall, these efforts underscore our commitment to the protection of the refugees we serve in accordance with the mandate given to us by the General Assembly sixty years ago and pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

Thank you.

Background Information

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$ 100 million.

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