The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Marc Garneau, paid a landmark visit to an installation run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Jerash Palestine refugee camp, Jordan.
The Honourable Mr. Garneau was accompanied by the Ambassador of Canada to Jordan, H.E. Donica Pottie, UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Ms. Leni Stenseth and the Officer-in-Charge of UNRWA Affairs in Jordan, Mr. Olaf Becker.
While at the UNRWA Jerash Preparatory Girls’ School, the delegation was briefed on the situation of Palestine refugees in Jordan, specifically on the vulnerabilities of Ex-Gazans and Palestine refugees from Syria, as well as recent developments on UNRWA operations in Jordan and across the region. Further, discussions centered around how UNRWA has contributed to regional stability and the human development of the Palestine refugees over the past seven decades.
The delegation was also briefed on the financial challenges facing the Agency, the impact of COVID-19 on UNRWA operations, the strategies employed to mitigate them to ensure continued service delivery to Palestine refugees, and how the Agency upholds UN values in all its activities.
After the walk in the camp, the delegation met with a Palestine refugee family. They highlighted the challenges they faced given the strained economic situation, which has been further impacted by COVID-19 closures, as well as the support received from UNRWA.
Ambassador Pottie noted, “The visit was an opportunity to hear first-hand about the challenges facing residents of Jerash Camp and to speak to youth who are showing great maturity as they study towards their future careers”.
UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Ms. Stenseth, expressed her gratitude for Canada’s support to Palestine refugees and UNRWA, and said: “I would like to thank the Government of Canada for their steadfast political and financial support to Palestine refugees and the Agency. We deeply appreciate the strategic cooperation that UNRWA and the Government of Canada have developed over the past years, which has been vital to maintaining key services and programmes for Palestine refugee families and communities.”
The visit concluded with a meeting with Palestine refugee youth studying in UNRWA vocational training centres (VTCs), where students shared their personal stories, challenges with learning during the pandemic and their future aspirations.
Canada is a top ten donor to UNRWA, helping to meet basic education, health, and livelihood needs, as well as funding to emergency appeals. In 2020, Canada and UNRWA signed a multi-year agreement worth CAD 75 million for the Programme Budget and another three-year agreement for the Syrian Regional Emergency Appeal worth CAD 15 million. In addition, Canada pledged CAD 1.5 million for the COVID-19 Appeal in 2020 and CAD 4 million to the oPt Flash Appeal in May 2021.
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 with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations, namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight.
Thousands of Palestine refugees who lost both their homes and livelihood because of the 1948 conflict have remained displaced and in need of significant support for over seventy years.
UNRWA helps them achieve their full potential in human development through quality services it provides in education, health care, relief and social services, protection, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.