Fourteen donor countries today pledged over $47 million to finance next year's budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The funding commitments were made at a conference in New York, with the Agency's two largest bilateral donors - the United States and the United Kingdom - slated to announce their contributions at a later date. The representatives of Austria, Germany, Lebanon and Japan also voiced their intention to make pledges in the near future.
In remarks to the meeting, General Assembly Vice-President Nguyen Thanh Chau of Viet Nam underscored the international community's moral obligation to sustain its commitment to the Palestinians - a commitment he said that found daily expression through UNRWA's vital work in providing essential services to more than 4 million refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Welcoming the pledges made to date, UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen appealed for full funding of the Agency's budget, urging major donors who had reduced their contributions to increase them at this time of persisting humanitarian emergency amid 27 months of closures and curfews affecting Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. He pointed out that their once-prosperous economy now recorded poverty rates of some 70 per cent and unemployment rates of about 50 per cent.
Other participants at today's meeting expressed condolences over the deaths of UNRWA staff, including Iain Hook, the slain British aid worker managing the rehabilitation of the Jenin refugee camp. In light of what many described as the increasingly dire humanitarian crisis and bleak economic situation, pledges were made today by the representatives of Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Malaysia, China, Republic of Korea, Oman, Turkey, Cyprus, Tunisia, Sweden, Kuwait and India.