Annan calls for increased aid to organization that assists Palestinian refugees

File: Karen Abu Zeid, the Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, during a press conference at her office in Gaza city November 8, 2005. (MAANnews/Wesam Saleh)


Increased aid to Palestinian refugees would contribute to stability and hope in the Middle East even as a final, just and practical solution to the problem is sought with renewed vigour after recent positive developments, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

“Recent developments in the region, particularly the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip, gave rise to new hope that the peace process could be put back on track,” Mr. Annan told the hosts and donors of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main organization for humanitarian aid to those refugees, at their meeting in Amman Jordan.

That had not yet happened, he noted, saying that all interested parties must try to ensure that this period of hope does not end, as others had, in bitter disappointment.

“As we do that, the work of UNRWA and what it represents to the four generations of Palestine refugees is indispensable,” he said in the message, delivered by Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of UNRWA.

Paying tribute to both the resourcefulness of the refugees and the generosity of the donors, he said that “UNRWA’s programmes in education, health care, microfinance and other aspects of human development have ensured that the basic humanitarian and human development needs of the refugees are addressed, and have given them hope that their plight is not forgotten.”

Marking the fact that the meeting was taking place in Jordan, Mr. Annan reiterated his sympathy for the family of those killed and wounded in the suicide bombings of three Amman hotels one week ago.

“Such acts can never be condoned, but must incite us all to confront terrorism and work for peaceful solutions to conflict, in the Near East and throughout the world,” he said.

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to UNRWA’s hosts and donors meeting, as delivered today in Jordan by Karen Koning AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

I send my greetings and sympathy to all of you who are meeting in Jordan, knowing that you will be sharing the country’s grief for its sons and daughters who were killed and wounded in the heinous terrorist attack just one week ago. Such acts can never be condoned, but must incite us all to confront terrorism and work for peaceful solutions to conflict, in the Near East and throughout the world.

Your meeting builds on the recommendations of last year’s Geneva Conference on meeting the humanitarian needs of the Palestine refugees. Your efforts on behalf of the 4.2 million Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are extremely important, and they have my full support.

When UNRWA was established in 1949, it was given a three-year mandate, perhaps reflecting an assumption that the Palestine refugee problem would be resolved within that time. Yet, that has not been the case, and for more than five decades most Palestine refugees have faced severe and continuing socio-economic hardship, as well as painful uncertainty about their future.

Over that time, in the face of persistent challenges and conflict, the communities of the Palestine refugees have been sustained by their own resourcefulness and resilience. But international support provided through UNRWA has also made an essential contribution to their well-being. UNRWA’s programmes in education, health care, microfinance and other aspects of human development have ensured that the basic humanitarian and human development needs of the refugees are addressed, and have given them hope that their plight is not forgotten. Your support for UNRWA has helped the refugees to lead productive and dignified lives, and your continued generosity is vital to enable UNRWA to carry that mission forward today.

Recent developments in the region, particularly the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip, gave rise to new hope that the peace process could be put back on track. However, despite the best efforts of many, that has not yet happened, and recently there has been a worrying increase in violence. Too often in the past, the region and its peoples have seen periods of hope end in bitter disappointment. We must all try to ensure that this pattern is not repeated, and that we move decisively towards the just and lasting peace that the region has long yearned for. As we do that, the work of UNRWA and what it represents to the four generations of Palestine refugees is indispensable.

I therefore call on you today not only to continue your support to UNRWA, but to increase it. In addition to enabling the Agency to implement its 2006/2007 biennial budget, increased funding would give a clear signal to the Palestine refugee community that their needs remain at the forefront of the international community’s concerns. That would make a significant contribution to stability and hope in the region, as we keep working for a final, just and practical solution to the problem.

In that spirit, I thank you once more for your commitment to UNRWA, and I send you my best wishes for a successful conference.

Related Links

  • UNRWA
  • BY TOPIC: Refugees