Dr. Ahmed Abu Holi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and head of the Refugee Affairs Department, emphasized that supporting UNRWA is an international responsibility until a permanent and just solution is found for the refugee issue according to Resolution 194. He called on member states to support and increase their allocations in the regular budget of the United Nations.
This statement came during an international diplomatic meeting chaired by Dr. Abu Holi today in collaboration with the Negotiations Affairs Department at the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Ramallah.
Dr. Abu Holi conveyed the greetings of President Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hussein Al-Sheikh, to the consuls and ambassadors, thanking their countries for their support to UNRWA. He also expressed gratitude to the countries that participated and donated at the pledging conference, including the United States, Britain, Luxembourg, and all the countries that pledged at this conference.
Dr. Abu Holi stated that the root of the refugee community issue was highlighted by President Abbas in his recent speech at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly when he called on the world to recognize the independent Palestinian state and end the conflict. He reminded of the Nakba, which is the origin of all these tragedies and the origin of the continuation of the work of UNRWA. Therefore, in his speech, he emphasized that the world must recognize the Nakba and criminalize those who perpetrated it based on our historical right in implementing Resolution 194.
Dr. Abu Holi reminded the diplomats of the stages of the Nakba and the related resolutions, and the international community's failure to implement the resolutions related to the Palestinian refugee's right to return to their homes, fields, and lands, and to compensation. Consequently, UNRWA must continue to provide services to the refugee community.
He briefed the international diplomats on the latest developments in the Palestinian arena, including the escalating Israeli aggression against our people, and the ethnic cleansing operations carried out by the extreme right-wing government, including killings, demolitions, forced displacement, land and resource confiscation, and the invasion of (A) areas and their destruction, including the Nur Shams and Jenin camps. He stressed that these ethnic cleansing operations are what the Palestinians define as the continuous Nakba, which represents the continuation of colonial occupation and racial segregation in its ugliest forms.
He asserted that the main cause of the political, economic, and social crises is the Israeli occupation, demanding an increase in international efforts to pressure for an end to the occupation. He pointed out that the continuation of colonial occupation and the absence of a political solution means the continuation of the refugee issue without a resolution.
Dr. Abu Holi highlighted the financial crisis of UNRWA and its impact on the conditions of Palestinian refugees in the camps, and the efforts led by the Palestine Liberation Organization to support UNRWA and mobilize financial resources. He noted that it has been facing a chronic funding shortage for 10 years.
The head of the Refugee Affairs Department urged donor countries to provide flexible and unrestricted funding to support UNRWA's transition towards a "Unified Budget Model," enabling it to manage its financial crisis, ensuring the continuity of its services to Palestinian refugees.
He stated, “We call upon you, representing your countries, to allocate fixed contributions to UNRWA through multi-year agreements to secure sufficient, sustainable, and predictable funding as one of the options to solve its chronic financial crisis.”
Dr. Abu Holi advocated for the required reforms to strengthen UNRWA and enable it to face the challenges, emphasizing the Palestine Liberation Organization's stance against politicizing aid and conditioning funding on reforms.
He warned of the dangers of the collapse of UNRWA and the reduction of health, education, and relief services to millions of refugees, confirming that the conditions of Palestinian refugees worsen with the spread of poverty and unemployment, and may reach the brink of collapse at any moment. If UNRWA collapses and further reduces its services, it will inevitably lead to instability and security disturbances in Palestine and the host countries in the region.
Dr. Abu Holi stressed that the costs the international community would bear will be much greater than $1.6 billion annually if the region loses one of its stability factors, which is UNRWA.
He called on the European Union, as one of the largest donors to UNRWA, and donor countries to work on funding the UNRWA operational reserve fund to enable it to manage the cash funding gap without resorting to borrowing and to overcome the problem of delayed contributions from some donors.
He expressed hope that the U.S. Congress would release the pending $75 million earmarked for food aid to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, confirming that its transfer would contribute to bridging the funding gap and securing the lifeline for 1.2 million Palestinian refugees.
The Executive Committee member thanked donor countries that participated in the ministerial-level pledging conference hosted by Jordan and Sweden, appreciating those who provided additional funds and honored their pledges. He expressed hope for new additional funding, commending countries that expressed political support for UNRWA and the non-negotiable rights of Palestinian refugees.
Participants emphasized the vital and humanitarian role of UNRWA in serving Palestinian refugees and stressed the importance of its continued services and sustainable funding until a political solution is found for the Palestinian refugee issue in accordance with international legitimacy and international law.