Nineteen donor countries pledged $72 million for the 2004 budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at this morning’s meeting of the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee for Voluntary Contributions.
Opening the meeting, General Assembly Vice-President Roman Kirn (Slovenia) said UNRWA had continued to face difficulties in the occupied Palestinian territory, where strife, curfews and closures had led to virtual economic collapse. Material and emotional resources had worn thin; two of three Palestinians had plunged into poverty, and many had fallen into destitution.
Despite an increasing beneficiary base, the 2004 budget had declined by some 5 per cent in real terms to $330 million, he said. The Agency had striven to tackle financial constraints by increasing efficiency and reducing costs, but meagre resources were still eroding its services. The international community must reaffirm its commitment to ensure the well-being of Palestinian refugees by providing UNRWA with the resources it needed.
Similarly, Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, said the organization’s resources had failed to keep pace with burgeoning refugee needs. Successive shortfalls to the General Fund had taken their toll on the Agency’s service infrastructure and operational capacity, leaving its schools, training centres, health clinics and installations operating on a maintenance budget.
The 2004 budget would minimally cover the Agency’s financial needs, he continued, including $4 million in salary increases and $7 million in working capital requirements. Member States should fully fund the Agency’s 2004 budget, and donor countries who had reduced their contributions should restore them to previous levels, so that undue cash flow pressures could be prevented in the coming year.
During the meeting, pledges were made by the representatives of United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Cyprus, Indonesia, Tunisia, Kuwait, Thailand, Norway, Bahrain, India, Austria, China, Ireland, Malaysia, and Netherlands.
The Observer for the Holy See also made a pledge.
In addition, the representatives of Japan, United States, Turkey, and the United Kingdom said their countries would pledge at a later date, as did a representative of the European Commission.
In concluding remarks, the Observer for Palestine thanked Member States for their contributions, noting that the Palestinian situation had continued to deteriorate, and refugees needs had increased. The pledges would help UNRWA provide essential services and programmes, ensuring refugees that the international community had not forgotten them.
Mr. Hansen observed that at least seven or eight countries had increased donations for the 2004 period. Pledges thus far totalled $72 million, a significant increase over last year’s pledge of $47.5 million, and several major donors had yet to state their pledged amounts.
|United Arab Emirates||$500,000|
|Denmark||$7,000,000||50,000,000 Danish kroner|
|Republic of Korea||$100,000||8,000,000 Swiss francs|
|United States||Not available but would be similar to last year|
|Cyprus||15,000 Cyprus pounds|
|Tunisia||12,000 Tunisian dinars|
|India||$11,000||500,000 Indian rupees|
|United Kingdom||Not available but would be similar to last year|
|Ireland||1,000,000 euros (emergency)|
|European Commission||Not available but would be similar to last year|