Acceptance Speech by Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd

25 October 2009

Karen AbuZaydUNRWA Commissioner-General

2009 Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean Prize

This speech was circulated not delivered

President Ruddy Salles,
Secretary-General Sergio Piazzi,
Your Excellencies:

I am deeply honored to accept this award on behalf of UNRWA and its 29,000 staff in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and in the occupied Palestinian territory. I sincerely appreciate the Parliamentary Assembly’s recognition of the value of UNRWA’s work in a region so often affected by suffering, uncertainty and strife.

This award acknowledges the devotion of UNRWA’s staff to the agency’s humanitarian and human development mission. Most of our staff are themselves refugees, and it is they who have worked as sanitation workers, administrators, teachers, social workers, doctors and nurses to establish the UNRWA brand of proficient, selfless, compassionate service to Palestine refugees. I am proud to say that this passion for service, most dramatically demonstrated during the conflict in Gaza, has been a hallmark of UNRWA for sixty years. As long as our services are required, that passion will remain a part of who we are.

To my mind, there is a deeper dimension to this award, a dimension that transcends UNRWA and its staff. I refer to the community of 4.6 million Palestine refugees whose protection and care are the reason for UNRWA’s existence. We would be remiss if we failed to proclaim that this award also recognizes the trials Palestinians and Palestine refugees endure, the anguish of their dispossession and the legitimacy of their aspirations for a normal life of security and prosperity in a State they can call their own.

From my nine years of living in Gaza and working in the Middle East, I have learned that hope is inextinguishable in the hearts and minds of Palestinians. For them, the aspirations for a Palestinian State and a just solution to their plight are not mere dreams. They are realistic and attainable.

As I accept this award on behalf of UNRWA, I ask that we bear in mind the reality of hope for a brighter future for Palestinians and for all the peoples of the Mediterranean. Let us re-dedicate ourselves, in our respective spheres of life, to bringing to life their belief in a better tomorrow.

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. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. 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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Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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