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UNRWA Welcomes OIC decision to establish a “Waqf” Fund for Palestine refugees
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has welcomed with deep appreciation the establishment of a “Waqf Fund“ for the Agency, announced by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at its Seventh Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul on 18 May.
In their Communique on the outcome of the Summit, the Members of the OIC resolved to “expedite the operationalization of the Developmental Waqf Fund” as a means of “further enhancing the collective support of the Member States and ensuring the consistent and sustainable funding of the UNRWA operations in the field of humanitarian relief, development and social protection”. The Communique also “urged the Member States to increase their support to UNRWA’s initiatives to maintain its sustainable budget”.
“This decision is of great significance and I wish to express sincere recognition for the leadership shown by the OIC and its member states. At a time when Palestine refugees are deeply concerned about their future, the announcement of the Waqf Fund represents an important milestone in the global effort to preserve UNRWA’s vital services”, said Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl.
The possibility of setting up such a Waqf Fund for Palestine refugees was recommended in a 2017 report by the UN Secretary General as part of a broader effort to provide sustained, predictable and sufficient funding for UNRWA. Since then, UNRWA has been working with members of the OIC as well as the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to make the Waqf fund a reality.
Amid the unprecedented financial crisis facing UNRWA this year and the growing regional volatility, UNRWA will further engage actively with the OIC and IDB to operationalize the Waqf Fund.
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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