Statement by UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl

11 December 2017
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Marwan Baghdadi

The level of anxiety and tension has risen again in the Middle-East and all eyes are turned to Jerusalem. 

I stand here within the Old City of Jerusalem to assure you - the Palestine Refugees - that UNRWA is more determined than ever to protect your rights and meet your needs. Nothing is more important to me than fulfilling that mission. It is a mandate that reflects the will of the international community and was extended by the United Nations General Assembly a year ago.

UNRWA continues to face a challenging financial situation for the remainder of this year. Our deficit is now 49 M Dollars. That is still a large amount.

As we near the end of 2017, I am therefore acutely conscious of the profound concern that refugees and UNRWA staff feel about a disruption of UNRWA services.  

I have taken exceptional steps, including special appeals to the highest levels of the international community, and internal measures, to preserve our vital work. I am grateful for the strong support of hosts and donors.

So, today I am announcing that UNRWA services - here in East-Jerusalem, in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon - will continue without interruption in 2017. 

UNRWA's 711 schools will remain open. Palestine refugee students will continue to have access to the education that develops their skills and preserves their opportunities.

UNRWA's 143 clinics will remain open and Palestine refugees will have access to the care, both physical and psychosocial, that is so dearly needed.

UNRWA's relief and social services, sanitation and camp improvement work, its micro-finance, protection and emergency activities will continue in all fields.

I call on all our partners - host and donors - to further increase their mobilization in support of our services, which must continue until a just and lasting solution has been found. It is a matter of dignity for the 5.3 million Palestine refugees.

On 6 December, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António Guterres, spoke for the entire United Nations when he said "Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions […]There is no alternative to the Two-State Solution. There is no plan B".

And earlier this year, UNRWA's role was described as indispensable by the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It did so because it has a responsibility towards you, the Palestine Refugees. The future of your children matters and UNRWA stands for you. Not for charity, but for respect and for rights, for hope and for dignity.

Our common humanity depends on it.

I thank you.

Click to watch a video of the Commissioner-General delivering the statement

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 5.4 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.