Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers, and a representative of 61 countries and international organizations at the International Ministerial Conference in Support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which was organized by the Kingdom and Sweden to mobilize political and financial support for UNRWA.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Ayman Safadi, and Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anne Linda, presided over the conference, which took place today, Tuesday in Brussels, in which United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke about the essential role that the agency plays in the lives of generations of Palestinian refugees, and its role pivotal in enhancing regional stability, stressing that despite the countries’ approval of the UN mandate granted to UNRWA, it is still facing an existential crisis, calling for the need to provide adequate, sustainable and predictable funding to enable it to provide its vital services to Palestinian refugees, and to bridge the funding gap immediately He said, "An investment in UNRWA is an investment in peace and hope." In an opening speech at the conference, Safadi stressed the need for the international community to continue providing the necessary financial support to the Agency so that it can provide its vital services to refugees. Safadi said that UNRWA is facing a financial deficit of US$ 100 million for this year, stressing the need to support the Agency to be able to provide its services to more than five million Palestinian refugees and provide them with a decent life and for UNRWA employees who depend on their monthly salaries to live in dignity.
Safadi also stressed the need to guarantee the right of more than five hundred thousand Palestinian children to education, and the right of refugees to health services are inalienable rights, and that the agency's role is indispensable and a factor of stability in the region.
Al-Safadi rejected the proposals that were targeting UNRWA, claiming the impossibility of sustaining them due to lack of funding.
He stressed that sustaining UNRWA's work is a responsibility that must be borne through a mechanism that guarantees the principle of burden-sharing. Al-Safadi praised the decision of the United States of America, which resumed its assistance to the agency, and provided about 318 million US dollars to it this year. He stressed the need for long-term and multi-year budgets to enable it to provide its vital services in accordance with its UN mandate. Safadi said that the agency must continue to provide its services until the refugee issue is resolved in accordance with international law, and in the context of a comprehensive solution based on the two-state solution that embodies the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state with occupied Jerusalem as its capital on the June 4, 1967 lines to live in peace and security alongside Israel. . In a concluding intervention at the conference, Safadi stressed that the Kingdom, which represents the largest supporter of the Agency and the Palestinian refugees, will continue to work with partners and with the Agency to ensure the continuation of providing the necessary funding to the Agency and to fill the deficit in its budgets. Safadi said that UNRWA's support is support for the refugees' right to a decent life, stressing that the agency, which operates in difficult circumstances, has proven the centrality of its role and the impossibility of dispensing with the services it provides effectively and efficiently.
He pointed out that the convening of this conference and the support shown by the participating countries confirms that the international community supports the agency and sends a message to the refugees that the international community stands with them and with their rights and will not abandon them.
Al-Safadi thanked the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs for her influential and solid partnership in the efforts to support the Agency, and valued her presence in the conference, which was organized in partnership with Sweden, even though the Swedish government is now a caretaker government. He also thanked the Commissioner-General of the Agency and his colleagues in UNRWA for their efforts.
In turn, the Swedish Foreign Minister expressed her appreciation for the Agency's efforts in these difficult circumstances, stressing that today's conference provides an opportunity to renew solidarity with Palestinian refugees and its international mandate and indispensable role. She also stressed the need to continue supporting UNRWA until a settlement of the refugee issue is found, pointing out the importance of matching the Agency's political support with financial support, which is in dire need of more of it, and enables it to carry out the minimum of its operations in its areas of work. In this context, Linda emphasized the need to provide a sustainable and stable budget for the Agency.
For his part, UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philip Lazzarini, thanked Safadi and Linda for organizing this conference, stressing that UNRWA’s vision is based on the commitment that "no Palestinian refugee is left behind,” and that "UNRWA services continue to accompany all refugees on their journey.” transformation towards self-reliance. Lazzarini stated that the financial and political challenges of an existential nature are working against this vision, and if these challenges are not addressed decisively, they would create a vacuum and a human catastrophe that this region cannot bear its consequences, calling for the need to support UNRWA with an amount of $100 million to restore UNRWA and its staff to work to its full potential.
According to the Commissioner-General, the conference was able to obtain pledges from countries amounting to $38 million. This conference is the third in a series of conferences held with a Jordanian-Swedish organization since the Rome conference in 2018, aiming to mobilize the necessary international political and financial support for the agency and reduce the financial deficit it faced, which resulted in closing the unprecedented financial deficit it faced with a value of pledges amounting to 122 million dollar. The International Ministerial Conference for Donors to the Agency was also held during the month of June of the year 2020, with the participation of more than fifty countries and representatives of international and regional organizations, during which a support amounting to 130 million dollars was mobilized to contribute to enabling the Agency to provide its vital services to Palestinian refugees in its five areas of operation in accordance with its UN mandate, and to work He is in the process of reducing the Agency's fiscal deficit, securing long-term commitments and identifying additional and innovative funding sources.
A joint statement was issued by the conference's presidents, Jordan and Sweden, in which they emphasized the primary role of UNRWA in supporting Palestinian refugees, promoting stability in the region, and the need to enable it to continue working to respond to the needs of these refugees. Participants expressed deep concern that the Agency continues to face recurrent and catastrophic funding shortfalls. The statement also reviewed UNRWA's plans to ensure effective and efficient work in carrying out its tasks in accordance with the mandate entrusted to it by the United Nations, which will contribute to working on the Agency's next multi-year strategy, which will be completed in 2022. The participants expressed their strong support for these plans, including benefiting from the The opportunities offered by information technology and the lessons learned from the experience of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The conference also provided an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of UNRWA and its staff in support of United Nations values and humanitarian principles, and UNRWA renewed its firm commitment to these values and principles, and its continuous work to ensure that this is reflected in its operations.