AdCom News

Opening Statement of the Commissioner-General at the UNRWA ADVISORY COMMISSION MEETING

17 November 2014

At our last meeting, I described the situation of Palestine refugee communities as unsustainable. Since then, the trends have become even bleaker. The pressures on Palestinians and Palestine refugees are immense and the threats to their lives, livelihoods or future are of such magnitude that hope is needed somewhere on the horizon. Hope - in this most unstable region - can only and must be brought about by resolute political action.

Click here to read the full statement or below to hear the Commissioner-General's concluding remarks.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the biannual UNRWA Adivsory Commission meeting.

The Gaza Strip

For eight years the Gaza Strip has been suffocating from an illegal blockade. In just six years, it has been devastated by three military escalations, including a 50-day ground offensive this past summer. Almost a third of the population was displaced, with UNRWA sheltering approximately 300,000 internally displacedcivilians in its schools. 2,254 Palestinians are confirmed killed to date, including 538 children, 11 UNRWA colleagues, and some 43 civilians killed by Israeli fire at UNRWA-operated shelters. Already strangling under blockade,Gaza’s resources have been completely depleted by the last military escalation.

Throughout the emergency, UNRWA effectively supported the entire population of the Gaza Strip – some 1.76 million people. It maintained its core services where security allowed, including health centres, food and water distribution and sanitation services in the camps. In the aftermath of the military escalation, the most critical interventions are shelter repair and transitional shelter support and reconstruction. Looking forward, UNRWA welcomes the new Gaza ReconstructionMechanism (GRM) and hopes it becomes fully functional as soon as possible to ensure that reconstruction needs can be met. Otherwise, the repair and reconstruction of the more than 100,000 damaged and destroyed homes will beimpossible. However, while the mechanism is necessary, it is not a substitute to the complete lifting of the blockade. The blockade fuels instability, de-development and conflict. As long as it is in place, the next escalation is simply a matter of time. UNRWA and the international community continue to demand its complete lifting. 

Honoring Arab and Palestinian Partners

For 64 years, UNRWA has been providing critical assistance to Palestine refugees. Throughout their long journey, UNRWA has been able at their side to provide vital services for their well-being, human development and protection. This often life-saving support is only possible with the enduring generosity of Arab and Palestinian partners.

In times of calm and in times of crisis, the Arab and Palestinian partners consistently stand with Palestine refugees and UNRWA. Palestine refugees face constant hardship and recurring crises with resilience. The value of the support provided by the Arab and Palestinian partners cannot be overstated. Beyond providing assistance and services, such support enables a new generation of Palestine refugees to work towards reaching their full human potential – an invaluable gift.

The Medium Term Strategy

In 2014 and after 66 years, the Palestine refugee condition is entirely unsustainable. There is reason to believe that the period 2016-2021 will be among the most difficult in Palestine refugee history and one of growing complexity for UNRWA operations. Palestine refugees are facing a human development and protection crisis exacerbated by armed conflict in Syria and the Gaza Strip and ongoing discrimination in the occupied Palestinian territory. The absence of a solution to the refugee question, and the profound challenges of socioeconomic development, will continue to increase the demand for UNRWA’s core services and emergency assistance.

UNRWA will remain the lead international actor in reducing the impact of threats to the Palestine refugee community during the 2016-2021 strategic period. To that end, it has identified five strategic outcomes that it will work to accomplish with theassistance of regional, national and local partners. These outcomes are: meeting minimum protection standards in UNRWA operations, protecting refugees’ health and reducing the burden of disease, ensuring quality, equitable and inclusive basic education, increasing the capabilities of refugees to take advantage of livelihood opportunities, and ensuring that refugees are able to meet their basic human needs of food, shelter and environmental health. In order to achieve these outcomes, UNRWA will establish a stronger foundation of efficient and effective management.

Crisis in Syria

As the crisis in Syria nears the four-year mark, over half a million Palestine refugees findthemselves increasingly vulnerable. The majority are displaced for the second, third, or even fourth time, bringing into sharp relief the instability faced by Palestine refugees in nearly every field. Food insecurity remains one of the most critical humanitarian concerns, particularly in besieged areas such asYarmouk camp.

UNRWA remains an important source of humanitarian assistance for Palestine refugees in Syria. UNRWA provides cash, food and shelter assistance and continues to provide health care and education, albeit adapted for an emergency context. With winter just around the corner, UNRWA remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation of those displaced and trapped in besieged areas.

Lebanon, the West Bank and Jordan

Palestine refugees in Lebanon, the West Bank and Jordan may not be facing armed conflict like their counterparts in Syria and Gaza, but their lives are not normal by any stretch of the imagination. In Lebanon, Palestine refugees face exclusion and limited access to resources, a problem exacerbated by the presence of 42,000 new Palestine refugees from Syria. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, access restrictions, the barrier, forced displacement, demolitions and poverty are just a few of the manifestations of the ongoing Israeli occupation. Palestine refugees in Jordan also face hardships, including thousands living in sub-standard shelters in need of rehabilitation and increasing numbers living in abject poverty, particularly those living in camps. 

UNRWA Advisory Commission Field Visit To Lebanon

24 June 2014

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Advisory Commission conducted a field visit to Burj Barajneh, Shatila and Rashidieh Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon on 18 and 19 June for a delegation consisting of Head of the European Union Delegation in Jerusalem, John Gatt-Rutter; Senior Advisor at the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem, Karin Gatt-Rutter; Deputy Representative of Ireland in Ramallah, Stephanie O’Brien; AusAid Head of Cooperation in Ramallah, Joel Thorpe; Head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Jerusalem, Véronique Hulmann; United Kingdom team leader in Jerusalem, Henrietta Hawxwell; Senior Advisor and Programme Advisor in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trine Rønning Mathisen; Samar Sayegh-Makhlouf; and the Finnish desk officer responsible for UNRWA, Anna Merrifield. 

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At the Advisory Commission Meeting 

18 June 2014

The AdCom meets twice a year, usually in June and November, to discuss issues of importance to UNRWA, striving to reach consensus and provide advice and assistance to the Commissioner-General of the Agency. These photos were taken at the most recent Advisory Commission meeting held on 16-17 June 2014 in Amman, Jordan. 

Click here to view the photo gallery. 

Statement of the Commissioner-General at the Meeting of the UNRWA Advisory Commission

17 June 2014

Speaking at the meeting of the UNRWA Advisory Commission in Amman, UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said that a powerful sense of the unsustainability of the situation of Palestine refugees has emerged from his first visits to Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and from his discussions with refugees and UNRWA colleagues. “I mean this in overall human terms, from social and economic perspectives to the dimension of human rights, security and dignity,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.

Click here to read the Commissioner-General’s full statement. 

Click here to read a summary of the Commissioner-General concluding remarks or below to listen to them in full. 

UNRWA Advisory Commission Discusses Future Strategy

16-17 June 2014

“When combining the pressures on the Palestine refugees with the achievements we have seen over several decades, I am confident in saying that UNRWA’s contribution to human development, to addressing emergency needs and to stability remains as important as ever”, said Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl. One of the Agency’s first priorities to keep our efforts moving forward is the development of a medium-term strategy (MTS) for 2016 to 2021. Working with host authorities and supporters to examine the current situation of Palestine refugees and its evolution over the coming years, UNRWA will better understand the community’s needs and the kinds of services we must provide. With this knowledge, the MTS identifies five major outcomes: meeting Palestine refugees’ basic needs, ensuring healthy choices and treatment, providing education for refugee children, improving livelihoods and strengthening the protection of refugees under international law. These outcomes will structure UNRWA work, providing an overall focus and consistency across the five fields while allowing for adaptation to local circumstances. 

Working Together for a Stable, Sustainable UNRWA 

16-17 June 2014

The Agency’s financial situation in 2014 presents numerous challenges that will require active management and the efforts of both UNRWA and its supporters. We will work to preserve and strengthen our relationships with our traditional partners while reaching out to new ones; at the same time, we will work internally to ensure lasting financial sustainability, as we have done in the past. Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl emphasized that UNRWA planning would focus on better analysing how we work to best meet Palestine refugees’ needs. 

UNRWA launches Ramadan Appeal for Palestine Refugees in Syria

16 June 2014

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has launched a Ramadan Appeal for US$ 27 million to enable Palestine refugees trapped in Syria to be able to buy food in Ramadan.

Announcing the appeal, Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said: “As we come up to Ramadan, we can foresee a prospect of thousands of Palestinian refugees going hungry because very simply they do not have enough money to buy food. Their livelihoods and often their houses have been destroyed. The US$ 27 million requested would enable us to distribute cash to 440,000 of the needy through our proven and very reliable cash-distribution network.”

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