Europe pledges hundreds of millions of dollars to UN agency for Palestinian refugees
The main United Nations agency caring for Palestinian refugees and the European Union have signed a joint declaration on European Community (EC) support, with the EU pledging to contribute some €264 million (euros) over the next four years to the agency’s general fund, a 7 per cent increase over the previous period.
“We are very appreciative of the EC’s helpful engagement in the region, and are pleased to be able to count on such a reliable partner,” UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd said at yesterday signing in Ramallah on the occupied West bank.
“We are especially grateful for the promised increase in funding, which is critical for UNRWA to be able to address the severe hardship of many of the Palestine refugees.”
A first contribution of €66 million for 2007 is already on its way. The EU’s continuing support to UNRWA is an essential element of the EU strategy for the Middle-East Peace Process, European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said at the signing.
“The Palestine refugees are among those most severely affected by the current socio-economic crisis,” she added. “UNRWA is more important than ever in this difficult moment. The EU is UNRWA’s biggest contributor and we will continue to work together to alleviate the hardship of the refugee population. All parties should do their utmost to improve the current humanitarian situation.”
Since 1971 the European Commission has regularly supported UNRWA. For the period 2003-2006 the EC provided €246 million.
Established in 1949, UNRWA provides education, healthcare, social services, and emergency aid to 4.3 million Palestine refugees living in West Bank and Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan in the largest UN operation in the Middle East.