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The Organization of Islamic Cooperation Approves Waqf Fund to Support Palestine Refugees
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) warmly welcomes the decision by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) dated 2 March 2019 to establish and operationalize a Waqf endowment fund, in support of Pales-tine refugees. This represents a major milestone in the efforts to diversify funding sources in support of UNRWA.
The Waqf fund was first envisaged in a 2017 report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and announced at the OIC’s 7th Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference in Istanbul in May 2018. It primarily aims at sustaining and strengthening UNRWA’s life-saving services to 5.4 million Palestine refugees in Gaza, West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. UNRWA will rely on this Waqf, housed within the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), to bolster its comprehensive human development programmes, which are recognized internationally for their long term impact, and their contribution to dignity and regional stability.
“This timely decision by the leaders and members of the OIC is a unique sign of solidarity with Pales-tine refugees,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl. “To be able to count on solid and predictable financial support such as the one promised by this Waqf is key to our ability to sustain the quality and scope of our services. I am immensely grateful to the Secretary-General of the OIC and Member States, as well as to the President of IsDB for this important achievement and trust” he added.
Once the Waqf is activated, OIC member states and other countries, in addition to the private sector and individuals will be able to contribute to it through the IsDB, thus participating in the sustainability of UNRWA’s programmes and the predictability of the funding necessary for their implementation.
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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