UNRWA Welcomes Danish Minister to Gaza

21 November 2013
UNRWA Welcomes Danish Minister to Gaza

East Jerusalem 

On 20 November, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, welcomed Christian Friis Bach, Minister for Development Cooperation and acting Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Denmark, on an official visit to the Gaza Strip. 

In Gaza, where UNRWA educates almost 233,000 young Palestine refugees at 245 schools, Mr. Grandi and Robert Turner, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, accompanied the minister to a school in Beach Camp. Mr. Friis Bach met with the school parliament and also attended a human rights class. The Agency has been promoting human rights education since 2000, and in Gaza, developed a dedicated human rights curriculum, anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that all pupils study. 

Gaza presents a particularly challenging context for UNRWA education efforts, as many of its students grow up in bleak conditions, surrounded by poverty and with little hope for a better future. The ceasefire negotiations following the November 2012 escalation of violence did not lead to significant modifications in the access regime, and the past months have seen the situation rapidly deteriorating, exacerbating the process of de-development created by the blockade. The movement of people and goods is severely restricted, and unemployment and food insecurity are on the rise. Fuel shortages and the shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant on 1 November have also put continued public service provision at risk.

At Beach Camp, Mr. Friis Bach expressed the support for UNRWA from the Government of Denmark and announced a donation of DKK 10 million (US$ 1.8 million) to help the Agency maintain its services to Palestine refugees. He said: "It has been an honour to meet these young people today, to see and learn from their strength and resilience. For children and young people growing up in such challenging circumstances, it is important that they receive the support and assistance that they need, and we are proud to help UNRWA provide them with that support." 

Mr. Grandi thanked Mr. Friis Bach for his support and said: “This is a time of extreme challenges for Palestine refugees in Gaza who have been seriously affected by the rapidly and substantially deteriorating situation. We are grateful to the Government and the people of Denmark for their strong and consistent support to UNRWA and for helping us provide the assistance and protection they critically need."

He noted that Danish support has been of particular importance to the vital human development services that UNRWA provides to some 5 million Palestine refugees across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, including education, health care and relief. In addition, Denmark has contributed to help UNRWA respond to pressing emergencies. Reflecting its position as a major UNRWA partner, Denmark joined the Agency's Advisory Commission in 2005.

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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.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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