The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Jordan, Sweden, Turkey, Japan and Germany as well as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, in collaboration with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), convened a Ministerial level meeting in support of UNRWA on 27 September 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The participants included: Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Kuwait, Netherlands, Norway, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom as well as the League of Arab States, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Islamic Development Bank and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. The Secretary-General of the United Nations and President of the United Nations General Assembly as well as the Commissioner-General of UNRWA participated.
The Ministerial Meeting provided an opportunity to build upon the momentum generated at the Extraordinary Ministerial Conference in Rome in March 2018 and the Pledging Conference in New York in June 2018. The purpose of the meeting was threefold. First, the meeting highlighted UNRWA’s tremendous contribution to the human development of Palestinian refugees and importance for regional stability. Second, the meeting underlined the need for the international community to overcome the remaining shortfall in 2018 and encouraged all Member States to contribute to UNRWA to enable it to fulfil its General Assembly mandate. Third, participants discussed practical measures to ensure sustainability of UNRWA towards the full implementation of its mandate.
The co-chairs and participants expressed confidence in UNRWA and praised the Agency for its achievements and standards as well as for their successful human development track record in the Middle East. We acknowledged the indispensable role that UNRWA has to support Palestine refugees and alleviate their suffering over more than seven decades which, together with the support of host countries, has contributed to the wellbeing of 5.3 million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory.
The meeting recognized the considerable efforts made by the international community. This support enables UNRWA to provide critical services, including: education to over 526,000 children in 711 schools, provision of health consultations in 138 health centres, delivery of food or cash to more than 1.5 million food-insecure refugees, and business loans worth on average USD 24 million per year to 33,000 refugees for micro-enterprise in support of livelihoods. The commitment and efforts of all UNRWA staff in implementing the Agency’s mandate in all five fields of operation were fully recognized and appreciated.
In particular, we expressed gratitude to those countries that advanced their expected annual contributions to earlier in the year to help UNRWA sustain operations as well as the 30 Member States who provided additional contributions to UNRWA’s core and emergency activities in 2018. The Ministerial Meeting raised a remarkable US$ 122 million, with Kuwait, the European Union, Germany, Norway, France, Belgium and Ireland announcing additional funding commitments.
We appreciated the emphasis placed by the United Nations Secretary-General on ensuring that UNRWA’s core programmes, notably in the fields of education, health, and assistance to the most vulnerable refugees, are sufficiently and predictably funded so that services to Palestinian refugees will continue uninterrupted. We commended the Secretary General for his strong conviction of the critical importance of UNRWA’s mandate, its role in preserving opportunities especially for youth, and its contribution to regional stability.
We commended the consistent efforts and the invaluable support of host countries extended to Palestine refugees, who are not only hosting Palestine refugees but also playing a vital role in supporting the Agency and enabling its work.
We welcome the statement of the Commissioner-General regarding the needs and rights of Palestinian refugees and the importance of continuing to provide UNRWA’s essential services. Also welcomed was his presentation on the significant Agency-wide measures that UNRWA is taking, within the framework of its General Assembly mandate, to enhance efficiency. We noted that these measures had resulted in $92 million of efficiency savings so far and encourage the Commissioner-General to sustain and expand these efforts, in order to ensure the sustainability and financial predictability of essential services provided by UNRWA to Palestinian refugees.
The participants reaffirmed the rights of Palestine refugees in accordance with international law and relevant UN Resolutions. We underlined the importance of fully supporting the ability of UNRWA to implement its mandate effectively in assisting and protecting Palestine refugees while continuing to ensure transparency and accountability in its programs. The meeting declared that the renewed efforts to sustain UNRWA’s work and the well-being of Palestinian refugees will continue until an agreed just, fair and lasting solution to the final status issue of Palestinian refugees is achieved leading to peace based on a negotiated two-state solution, in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions, including UNGA Resolution 194, and the Arab Peace Initiative.