The European Union and Germany Sign Vital Contribution Agreements at UNRWA Jerusalem Girls’ School in Silwan in East Jerusalem

11 December 2019
Acting EU Representative Tomas Niklasson (left), Cornelia Dinter from Germany’s KfW Development Bank (right) and Acting UNRWA Commissioner-General Christian Saunders (center)  signed additional contribution agreements for UNRWA at a signing ceremony in the UNRWA Preparatory Girls’ School in Silwan in East Jerusalem on 11 December 2019,  with the Deputy German Representative, Michael Herold, looking on. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Marwan Baghdadi

The European Union (EU) and the Federal Republic of Germany today signed additional contribution agreements with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The event took place at the UNRWA Jerusalem Girls’ School in Silwan, East Jerusalem, with several EU Member States (MS) also joining the ceremony as part of the collective EU and MS support to UNRWA and Palestine refugees. 

In 2019, the Agency was extremely grateful to receive a contribution of EUR 82 million from the EU in support of critical human development work UNRWA provides in the region. At an extremely difficult time for Palestine refugees, the EU is contributing a further EUR 21 million.

Similarly, the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, through the KfW Development Bank, announced four new projects valued at EUR 59 million to UNRWA.  The signing ceremony certified German support for the Agency’s basic social services, employment generation and camp infrastructure.

At the UNRWA Advisory Commission meeting on 25-26 November, Mr. Christian Saunders, the Acting Commissioner-General of the Agency, appealed to donors to address the funding shortfall of US$ 167 million. Half of the vital donations announced today will contribute to easing the Agency’s severe cash flow crisis, helping it deliver key services for the remainder of the year. The balance of the funds for UNRWA will help alleviate poverty in the Gaza Strip through employment generation, as well as construction and infrastructure projects essential to the work of UNRWA on the ground.

The EU and its Member States, including Germany, collectively remain the largest contributors to UNRWA budget.

In addition to commitments signed today, a new assistance package of an additional EUR 36 million to UNRWA was adopted under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, to strengthen the resilience of Palestine refugees from Syria and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon through the provision of basic services. UNRWA recognizes the work of the EU Trust Fund has been instrumental in providing vital assistance to refugees fleeing from the Syrian war and to countries hosting refugees.

UNRWA proudly serves a community of more than 5.5 million Palestine refugees. Mr. Christian Saunders, the Acting Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said “I would like to express my deep appreciation for the generosity of the European Union and its Member States, including Germany and the others present here today, for supporting and investing in Palestine refugees, for creating the opportunities to allow them to fulfill their full potential, which is crucial to their future and to this region.”

"The EU and its Member States are proud to remain the largest providers of international assistance to Palestine refugees and the Agency's most reliable donors. For over four decades, the EU has established itself as a key strategic partner for the Agency, supporting UNRWA in its efforts to help Palestine refugees achieve their full potential in human development and assisting the Agency in efficiency gains and reforms. In 2018, as the Agency faced its most significant financial shortfall since its inception, the EU and Member States emerged as the Agency’s largest donors. Building on decades of commitment and partnership, the EU strives to enable UNRWA to continue its operations – including in East Jerusalem – until a just, fair, agreed and realistic solution to the final status issues of Palestine refugees is reached," said Acting European Union Representative Tomas Niklasson.

Mr. Michael Herold, Deputy German Representative, noted: “UNRWA is one of Germany’s most important partners in the Middle East as a regional stability factor in an unstable environment. UNRWA offers perspective and dignity to millions of people. Despite all challenges, it is of paramount importance that the organization is able to maintain operations and keep schools open. Germany will remain a reliable supporter.” 

The European Union’s commitment to Palestine refugees includes unprecedented support for the Agency’s education and health programmes. The ongoing EU Sponsorship of UNRWA facilities, now in its third year, continues to provide a healthy and safe environment for Palestine refugees across all five areas of UNRWA operations. The EU-UNRWA partnership, encompassing essential contributions, has enabled the Agency to secure education, health, protection and the general welfare and development of Palestine refugees since 1971.

Background Information: 


Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5.5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than three million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

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.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
Shadi Othman
The Office of the EU Representative
+972 (0)59 967 3958
+972 (0)59 967 3958
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
+962 (0)79 090 0140