The head of the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees today urged the international community to strengthen support for the refugees, particularly the youth who constitute an increasingly significant segment of the population.
Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that at a time of growing demands for fundamental freedoms and better living conditions across the Middle East, the world must redouble its efforts to find a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue, in consultation with the refugees.
In an address to the opening session of UNRWA’s Advisory Commission, Mr. Grandi urged delegates to consider the agency’s continuing relevance and its mission of human development and humanitarian support.
UNRWA is the only UN agency directly providing essential services in education, health, microfinance and social safety-net support to Palestinian refugees.
Mr. Grandi highlighted the dire situation many Palestinian refugees face, particularly those in the in the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
He said that the issue of Israeli settlements expanding “relentlessly on Palestinian land, including in the East Jerusalem periphery,” had implications for a future Palestinian State. He voiced UNRWA’s grave concern over the humanitarian consequences of settlement expansion and the demolition of Palestinian homes and property.
“This deepens the isolation of Palestinians and creates fresh displacement,” he said.
Mr. Grandi pointed out that there are an estimated 3,000 demolition orders pending in the West Bank.
“The worst is yet to come, unless much more urgent and effective pressure is exercised to stop these abuses,” he warned.
He expressed gratitude to UNRWA’s donors, including Arab countries, for their support for the agency. Pledges from Arab donors this year stand at $144 million, including $44 million from the Gulf Cooperation Council through the Islamic Development Bank.
Mr. Grandi, however, voiced concern over the future funding of UNRWA, particularly resources urgently needed to sustain food and cash assistance to refugees most affected by poverty.
He appealed to Arab donors in particular to continue their trend of donating to the agency’s General Fund, which finances core services in education, health and support to the poorest refugees.
(UN News Center)