The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) are holding a Strategic Dialogue on the way forward for their partnership. The discussion takes place in light of the current financial crisis facing UNRWA and the need to broaden its donor base and continue reforming the Agency.
A statement by UNRWA said that the EU and UNRWA remain committed to protecting the rights of Palestine refugees and continue the delivery of essential services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, has said that ” The European Union stands by its commitment to Palestine refugees and UNRWA. We have accelerated our contribution to UNRWA’s Programme Budget in 2018 and are committing to maintaining the present level of support to 2020. I recognise the importance of providing predictability to UNRWA in these difficult times. The Agency is a crucial stabilising factor in the Middle East. We stress the need, in parallel, for UNRWA to pursue deep reforms and to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable refugees.””.
UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, expressed gratitude that “once again, UNRWA could count on the support of the EU to overcome the unprecedented challenges it faces. The EU has been one of our most reliable donors for decades. I am very grateful for the support of the EU in mobilising the international community around a concerted global response to the most severe financial crisis in our seventy year history and helping us build new funding alliances needed to ensure improved income diversity.”
EU funding supports crucial UNRWA programmes in education, health, relief and social services; providing a quality education for half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The Strategic Dialogue discussed the challenging budgetary situation of UNRWA, which has been exacerbated by the recent announcement by the US government to withhold a considerable part of its funding.
The EU and UNRWA also discussed the reform agenda of the Agency, agreeing on the need to safeguard the Agency’s core services, especially to the most marginalised refugees and exploring joint advocacy opportunities to highlight the plight of Palestine refugees at the global level.