Pledges at Funding Conference not sufficient to cover UNRWA financial requirements from September onwards

02 June 2023
The 2023 UNRWA Pledging Conference in New York on 2 June. © 2023 UNRWA Photo

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Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) sounded the alarm about the Agency’s deepening funding crisis. Addressing this year’s Pledging Conference for UNRWA convened by the President of the General Assembly, Commissioner-General Lazzarini warned of the risk of the Agency’s collapse.  

The international community once again confirmed its long-standing commitment to Palestine Refugees and UNRWA by providing political and financial backing. They reaffirmed the important and irreplaceable role of the Agency for millions of refugees. Collectively, Member States pledged US$ 828.3 million, of which US$ 13.2 were fresh contributions.[1].  

 “While we are grateful for the pledges announced, they are below the funds that the Agency needs to keep over 700 UNRWA schools and 140 clinics open from September onwards,” said Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. “We will continue to work tirelessly with our partners, including host countries- the refugees’ top supporters- to raise the funds needed,” he added.

Some of the Agency’s most committed donors have indicated they will substantially decrease their contributions in 2023.

In a message delivered on behalf of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, he said: “The prospect of peace remains remote. If anything, it is receding.  Halfway into the new year, violence rages on without reprieve. In this darkening picture, UNRWA is one of the few rays of hope.  I urge you to nurture and sustain this hope.” 

Ahmad Abu Daqqa A 15-year-old UNRWA student parliamentarian from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip spoke at the conference about education: “As children, we find the meaning of childhood only within the pages of our books. UNRWA schools are our only refuge. It’s where we find hope. We have dreams that reach the stars, despite the painful reality of our lives.” 

Palestine Refugees feel the impact of underfunding on their lives every day. It adds to their feeling of abandonment and despair at a time when the prospect for a lasting solution has never been so out of reach.

“Many Member States today also acknowledged that as the Agency will soon mark 75 years, it is high time for a strategic discussion on a sustainable UNRWA, until there is a political solution,” concluded Lazzarini.




Notes to the Editor 

  • At the beginning of the year, UNRWA appealed for US$ 1.6 billion for its programmes, operations and emergency response across Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip and Jordan.
  • Ten years of chronic underfunding have severely impacted the quality of some UNRWA services. This translates today into larger classrooms, increased reliance on daily paid workers (including for basic services like education and health), depleted assets, and the inability to expand cash assistance programmes. UNRWA struggles to address emerging crises, including those with long-term impact like the COVID-19 pandemic and conflicts that result in education losses among Palestine Refugee children.  
  • Over the years, the Agency has put in place several measures to utilize the financial contributions it received from donors, tightening its overall spending and improving its efficiency and cost control.  
  • The plight of Palestine Refugees is the longest unresolved refugee crisis in the world today. UNRWA continues to maintain an active registration of 5.9 million Palestine Refugees.  
  • UNRWA is the only UN agency that operates a fully-fledged school system of over 700 schools. These schools currently provide education to over half a million children.  
  • Last year, UNRWA health centres provided 7.9 million health consultations across the Agency’s five fields of operation.  
  • UNRWA has been facing chronic underfunding for the last 10 years. The Agency started this year (2023) with debts of US$ 75 million carried over from 2022.    
  • First introduced in 2001, UNRWA school parliaments form an integral part of its Human Rights, Conflict Resolution and Tolerance Programme.   

[1]The previous version of this news release referred to US$ 115.2 million in ‘newly announced’ contributions. This figure included pledges already agreed upon but announced for the first time publicly at the Pledging Conference. The new figure of US$ 13.2 million refers to entirely fresh funding and is included in the US$ 115.2 million. 

Disclaimer: The number has been updated following further calculations and additional/updated pledges after the Pledging Conference.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The United Nations General Assembly established UNRWA in 1949 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.

UNRWA operates in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, The Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. 

Tens of thousands of Palestine refugees who lost their homes and livelihoods due to the 1948 conflict continue to be displaced and in need of support, nearly 75 years on.

UNRWA helps Palestine Refugees achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.


For more information, please contact:

Juliette Touma
UNRWA Director of Communications
+962-79-867-4628 (on whatsapp)
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson/ Director of External Relations & Communications
+962 (0)79 090 0140