Response to media reports regarding letter forwarded to President Obama

28 February 2009

Commissioner-General’s Statement

28 February 2009 

The guards at UNRWA Headquarters front gate occasionally receive sealed envelopes addressed to persons outside Gaza. Generally, the practice is to forward such letters, in good faith. The letter addressed to President Obama (sealed and with a Palestinian National Authority return address) was handled in this way.

The Agency insists that there is no basis whatsoever for the allegation that it intended to provide support to, or act as a messenger for, any political or militant group. UNRWA, as a humanitarian and human development agency, maintains that this incident in no way detracts from its neutrality as a United Nations body.

The Commissioner-General deeply regrets any awkwardness that has ensued.

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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