International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Statement by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl
Over seven decades, UNRWA has been driven by a fundamental imperative: to ensure the rights and dignity of Palestine refugees are protected, including those who are the most vulnerable. Today, as the world celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities, UNRWA reaffirms its commitment that Palestine refugees with disabilities enjoy the protection they require to lead lives of dignity.
With needs diverse and opportunities constrained, persons with disabilities contend with many – and often steep – challenges. As a humanitarian agency investing in the human capital of Palestine refugees, equal and unfettered access to all our services is crucial for persons with disabilities in all our fields of work – Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and West Bank including East Jerusalem.
It is equally important to renew efforts to overcome stigma, discrimination and other barriers to equality and participation affecting persons with disabilities. Equality is more than an aspiration – it is a right. In continuing to make this a reality, UNRWA will redouble its engagement with partners in the community-at-large, and support persons with disabilities to empower themselves as leaders in advocating for rights.
Despite the progress made, we are deeply conscious that the road remains long before we become a fully disability-inclusive Agency. There is more to be done to make all UNRWA facilities, including schools and health centres, physically accessible. We also recognise the need to increase support to UNRWA colleagues who work directly with persons with disabilities, and strengthen capacities so that we can more effectively address needs.
I am proud to say that even amidst all the challenges UNRWA has faced in 2018, we stood strong and continued to work towards promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. On the ground, our innovative teams continue to take initiative to ensure that UNRWA is fulfilling the commitment of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 of “leaving no one behind”.
On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I call on all colleagues – and our partners – to ensure that progress made to date serves as a foundation for equality and inclusiveness. It is a major responsibility.
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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