6 February 2009
The European Commission has today provided a contribution of €66 million to the General Fund of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Mr. Christian Berger, the European Commission Representative in Jerusalem, today signed the agreement along with Mr. Filippo Grandi, UNRWA‘s Deputy Commissioner General, in the main UNRWA Jerusalem warehouse, against a backdrop of in-kind donations destined for Gaza. Both Mr. Berger and Mr. Grandi used the opportunity to express grave concerns regarding the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip, noting that the situation cannot be adequately addressed until all crossings into the beleaguered Gaza strip are opened to meet the basic needs of the people of Gaza.
The €66 million contribution from the European Union will go to UNRWA‘s core budget, the General Fund, helping to pay salaries for UNRWA’s teachers, doctors and social workers and enabling UNRWA to maintain delivery of essential services to Palestine refugees throughout Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Mr. Grandi expressed his gratitude for the EU’s funding, noting that “as the Gaza crisis has shown, the Agency and its services are absolutely crucial to Palestine refugees, and contributions to its core budget allow UNRWA to deliver these services effectively.” Mr. Grandi said that “the human development needs of Palestine refugees throughout the region continue to increase”, highlighting that, in addition to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, “refugees in the West Bank are being subjected to yet another year of debilitating closures, and over 20,000 refugees remain homeless in northern Lebanon as a consequence of the destruction of Nahr El Bared Camp in 2008”.
In respect of the blockade that has been in place for over 20 months in Gaza, Mr. Berger said "I cannot stress enough how vital it is for crossings into Gaza to be fully opened," echoing recent comments by Marc Otte, the European Union‘s Special Representative to the Middle East peace process, that Gaza would otherwise continue to resemble "hell". "I also want to pay tribute to the work of UNRWA, not only through the recent crisis, but also as it commemorates the 60th anniversary of its foundation this year. UNRWA has provided both a lifeline and dignity to generations of refugees. Only when there is a just and lasting peace to this conflict will UNRWA finally be able to say that their job is done – and until that moment, the European Union will continue to support their work."
Since 1971 the European Union has regularly supported UNRWA, becoming its largest multi-lateral donor. For the period 2007-2010, the European Commission has pledged to provide €264 million to UNRWA’s General Fund and has contributed over €73 million to UNRWA‘s emergency appeals for humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and Gaza, through the Commission‘s humanitarian department, ECHO. This financial support, when combined with contributions from individual EU Member States, represents more than half of UNRWA‘s total budget.
For more information on the EU‘s assistance
to the occupied Palestinian territory:
Alix de Mauny, + 972 (0)54 802 4915 For more information on UNRWA:
Chris Gunness, +97 2(0)54 240 2659