Strong support for UNRWA as major hosts and donors meeting concludes

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency runs schools and health clinics that cater to the needs of the refugees. (Arjan El Fassed)

DEAD SEA (Jordan) -– The second day of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Hosts and Donors Meeting, being held at the Dead Sea, opened with an address by Dr. Marwan Muasher, the deputy prime minister of Jordan.

Introducing Muasher, Karen AbuZayd, the UNRWA Commissioner-General, applauded Jordan’s many efforts on behalf of Palestine refugees as “exemplary.” Muasher, in turn, expressed strong support for UNRWA: “The Government of Jordan believes the role of UNRWA, especially in light of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, is a vital one. Its budget should be strengthened and expanded, so as to be able to raise the living standards of Palestine refugees living in Gaza and elsewhere.”

Muasher went on to outline a series of proposed government reforms, part of a new national vision for Jordan. His reform theme found a corollary in UNRWA meetings held throughout the day, many of them exploring ways for UNRWA to strengthen management and improve services within its five fields of operation.

A frequent topic of discussion throughout the day was the implication of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Issues related to “access” and the movement of both people and goods were seen as critical areas. The recent decision on the Rafah crossing was seen as providing important new opportunities for Palestinian economic development.

The Government of Jordan, as host country for the meeting, led closing remarks: “The Kingdom of Jordan reiterates the necessity of maintaining UNRWA’s mandate, pending resolution of refugee issues as per the relevant U.N. resolutions.”

David Hallum, the British Consul-General in Jerusalem, spoke on behalf of the European Union: “Many challenges confront UNRWA, and much is expected from the organization by the refugees, host countries, and donors during extremely challenging circumstances. We welcome and support UNRWA’s Gaza Disengagement Planning Framework, and would like to stress our continued support for the vital work being undertaken by UNRWA.”

Rich Greene, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the United States Department of State, spoke on behalf of the American Government: “We see a positive momentum underway at UNRWA, and support that.” Greene stressed the importance of improving economic prospects for Palestine refugees, and applauded UNRWA on its strengthened senior management: “We like what we’ve seen so far.”

Forty countries came together at this meeting to express support for UNRWA, a significant increase over previous donor meetings.

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