United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
- Peace and Security
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY – Fourth Committee
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Australia commends the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for the contribution it continues to make to the lives of five million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.
UNRWA's services in education, health, livelihoods and humanitarian relief are lifesaving and continue to be delivered in the most challenging circumstances, including in Syria where the conflict has displaced over 270,000 Palestinians, including some across borders to Lebanon and Jordan, and where the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk remains under siege.
At a time when the Syrian conflict had already placed significant pressure on UNRWA, we pay particular tribute to the work UNRWA did in providing shelter and essential services to over 290,000 displaced people and feeding over 830,000 during the Gaza conflict in July and August. We acknowledge the tragic loss of UNRWA staff members in both Gaza and Syria, and the damage to UNRWA facilities in Gaza sustained during the conflict.
UNRWA's plan for relief, recovery and reconstruction, Strategic Response to Gaza 2014, and its commitment to coordinate closely with the Palestinian Government of National Consensus and UN and civil society agencies in response to the conflict is commendable.
Australia notes the Secretary General's announcement of 21 October 2014 that he is setting up an investigation into events in Gaza including the use of UNRWA schools to store weapons. We look forward to a full and transparent investigation and to the introduction of measures to ensure that no more violations of UNRWA neutrality can occur.
Australia is a long-standing supporter of UNRWA – we have provided funding to the Agency every year since 1951 and we are on track to exceed our current partnership commitment ($90 million over five years, 2011 to 2016). This partnership provides a predictable funding flow which helps UNRWA better plan and deliver its services to the Palestinian people.
In response to the UNRWA Flash Appeal for Gaza we provided $10 million in additional funding in August 2014. We have also promptly paid our $20 million annual contribution to help UNRWA plan its humanitarian response.
Australia is a member of the UNRWA Advisory Commission and we recognise the quality of its core education and health programs and its particular strength in emergency response. We also recognise that UNRWA is facing significant challenges: a rising refugee population; multiple humanitarian crises; flat-lining global aid budgets and a rising deficit. We are encouraged by UNRWA's progress towards a measurable Medium Term Strategy for 2016-21 which will set out clear priorities in order to meet these challenges.
We take this opportunity to commend the strong leadership of Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbühl since taking up his position in May this year. Commissioner General, your leadership of the Agency during the Gaza conflict was vital and we welcome your commitment to tackle the Agency's necessary management reforms.
Finally Mr Chairman
For all the excellent work that UNRWA does among the refugee population, a viable future that offers a pathway to sustained economic development for Palestinian refugees can only come through a political solution. The Australian Government remains committed to Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally-recognised borders. Australia believes that a negotiated settlement is the only way to ensure the creation of a future Palestinian state and calls on the parties to resume negotiations.