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Co-Chairs’ Summary of the Extraordinary Virtual Ministerial Conference
‘A Strong UNRWA in a Challenging World – Mobilizing Collective Actions’
We, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Jordan and the Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, in collaboration with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), on 23 June 2020 convened an Extraordinary Virtual Ministerial Conference entitled ‘A Strong UNRWA in a Challenging World – Mobilizing Collective Action’.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations participated in the conference. Other participants included the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Palestine and ministers and senior officials from 69 governments and international organisations, representing all regional groups of the United Nations.
Participants recognised that UNRWA operates in a highly complex and unstable region where more than 5.6 Palestinian refugees continue to be exposed to conflict, poverty and despair. In this regard, participants underscored that UNRWA remains an indispensable and effective provider of quality and innovative programmes that provide assistance and protection to Palestine refugees.
Participants re-affirmed UNRWA’s crucial contribution to the human development of the Palestinian refugees, regional stability and peace in the Middle East and announced new and additional pledges, including through multi-year agreements as well as through support for innovative funding avenues. Participants also called for increased mobilisation of resources for the Agency.
During the Conference, participants acknowledged the agility and innovation shown by UNRWA’s frontline staff who helped prevent a major outbreak of COVID-19 in overcrowded refugee camps and ensured continued access of refugees to lifesaving services. Participants stressed that the effects of COVID-19 had a more socio-economic impact on Palestinian refugees, and warned that pressure on UNRWA and the host countries would increase. In this context, they called for the international community to step up support to ensure that no Palestine refugee is left behind.
As co-chairs, we value the high-level engagement in today’s conference and the support of the UN General Assembly’s December 2019 renewal of UNRWA’s mandate for three years. We commend the Secretary-General for his strong conviction regarding the importance of UNRWA’s mandate and critical need for its ongoing operations.
Participation in today’s conference further helps translate the strong political support for UNRWA’s mandate into sustained financial support for the Agency. Sharing financial responsibility is of vital importance, and we express special appreciation for the pledges of additional funding by numerous participants beyond previous 2020 commitments, as well as first time pledges by new Member States wishing to join the effort. We especially thank donor countries that have made concrete multi-year funding commitments to the Agency as essential towards addressing the Agency’s recurrent cash flow crisis. The commitment by UNRWA partners to support the Agency through microfinancing, Islamic social financing and the Waqf Fund for Palestine refugees is strongly commended.
We also express special appreciation for the invaluable support of the hosts who generously shoulder major responsibilities in accommodating Palestinian refugees. We call on the International community to join these nations by providing predictable, sufficient and sustained funding for UNRWA in order to continue implementing its mandate pending a just and durable solution to the question of Palestine refugees is found in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions, including UN General Assembly resolution 194, and within the context of a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution.
We welcome the appointment by the UN Secretary-General on 1 April of Philippe Lazzarini as the new Commissioner-General of UNRWA and are confident that under his leadership, and together with a new senior executive management team, UNRWA will successfully confront the multiple challenges ahead. We welcome today’s statement from the Commissioner-General calling for a mutual social contract to enable UNRWA to continue to support the rights and dignity of the Palestine refugees and promote their human development , pending a just and lasting solution to the refugee issue.
We underline the importance of the Agency’s efforts to strengthen effectiveness and accountability, governance, management and transparency. We equally salute the Agency’s commitment to remain at the vanguard of neutrality in a highly complex and volatile environment.
In conclusion, we affirm that the Extraordinary Conference, with its high-level engagement and the strong financial support pledged by UN Member States across the world, was an important step in strengthening UNRWA and its outstanding capacity and effectiveness across the region. Further, it was an important step towards putting the Agency on a stable and sustained financial footing. As co-chairs, we remain committed to follow up on the conclusions agreed upon today and stand ready to organise a follow-up meeting in the autumn.
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 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem 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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