Statement of the Secretary-General on crisis in Gaza

04 January 2009

New York 

In light of the deepening crisis in Gaza, I recalled my Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, to brief me in New York on the situation on the ground as well as diplomatic efforts underway. I also convened a meeting of my senior advisors as part of the ongoing response of the United Nations to all aspects of the crisis.

I believe the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, has a central role to play in bringing a speedy end to the conflict. I regret that the Security Council has not been able to reach a consensus, including during its emergency session held yesterday evening, in order to bring about an end to the violence. I will be working actively with members of the Council and other key players, in particular Arab leaders who I am seeing tomorrow at United Nations Headquarters, to facilitate the emergence of a consensus.

Meanwhile I remain extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground. We are in close contact with the Israeli authorities to press them to open not only the Kerem Shalom crossing, but also Karni and Nahal Oz, to allow in, particularly, wheat grain and fuel for the power plant, as well as other essential supplies.

Given the crucial juncture at which we have arrived in the search for a ceasefire, I appeal to all members of the international community to display the unity and commitment required to bring this escalating crisis to an end.

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 more than US$ 106  million.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications & Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724