19 March 2012
At a major international conference convened by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), there have been high-profile calls on the international community to support the UN agency that works for Palestine refugees.
At a two-day meeting in Brussels, Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, said, “We are gathered here because we have recognised the potential of the youth of Palestine. Against all the odds, they continue to learn, to work, to dream and aspire to a better future.”
The conference in Brussels was attended by over 400 delegates who heard speeches on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. The Belgian Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders, and his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh, also spoke. Ronan Farrow, the youth adviser of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, also participated.
“Over the coming years,” Ashton continued, “the EU will continue providing support to UNRWA’s General Fund as the Agency makes progress in its reform process. We believe that UNRWA is essential to the development and well-being of all the Palestine refugees and we believe that it needs strong support, financial support from all the parties that are able to do that.”
Echoing Ashton’s call, Nabil El-Araby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, urged the international community to pay attention to the rapidly-shifting reality of Palestine refugees by investing in youth.
If current trends continue, there will be 1.5 million young Palestine refugees between the ages of 15 and 29 by 2020, about one-quarter of whom are likely to be unemployed.
“There is no doubt that we are at a critical juncture. The intersection of forces -- political uprisings, conflict, the rise of social media, the unprecedented numbers of young people, economic uncertainty -- have all created volatility, and at the same time, great potential,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General, Filippo Grandi.
“For refugee youth, the broader transformations amplify the profound stresses of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian situation, of the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, of rights often violated or not granted, of the vulnerability and anxiety generated by lives in exile in a region plagued by repeated conflicts, even as we speak. At the same time, young people across the region have proven that they are not ready to give up - that in spite of all odds -- they have hope.
UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for nearly five million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. The Agency’s services encompass education, primary health care, poverty alleviation for the poorest of the poor, camp infrastructure and improvement, community support, microfinance, and emergency and humanitarian response, including in times of armed conflict.
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