UNRWA New York Director apologises and retracts comments on right of return

03 November 2010

UNRWA New York Director apologises and retracts "inappropriate and wrong" comments on the right of return and again underlines they don‘t represent the views of UNRWA

3 November 2010

Dear Mr. Gunness,

I am writing following my realisation – from media reports, statements and letters from individuals, organisations and governments – that part of the remarks I delivered at a conference in Washington hosted by the National Council on US – Arab Relations, on 22 October, 2010, were inappropriate and wrong. Those remarks did not represent UNRWA’s views.

I express my sincere regrets and apologies over any harm that my words may have done to the cause of the Palestine refugees and for any offence I may have caused. I have spent much of my long career working for the Palestinian people, and defending their rights, in different professional capacities. It is definitely not my belief that the refugees should give up on their basic rights, including the right of return.

I wish to put this letter on the public record out of concern that what I said in Washington could be interpreted in ways that negatively affect the reputation and work of UNRWA, an organisation I have been proud to serve since July 2002. The Agency is at liberty to use my statement in whatever ways it sees fit. There is no need for a reply.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Whitley

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall,  projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 81 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance .

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