The intensity of the on-going conflicts in the Middle East presents the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with unprecedented challenges, and impact the already vulnerable Palestine refugees. These conflicts have led to massive human displacement and suffering. In the present context, UNRWA's role in stabilizing the region, through continued provision of protection and basic services, is more important than ever.
Norway is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation for the Palestine refugees from Syria. We commend UNRWA for including Palestine refugees from Syria in its assistance portfolio in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as the very difficult task of providing services inside Syria itself. We realize the extra strain this puts on the agency. Norway has therefore provided additional support to UNRWA's emergency appeal for Syria this year.
Service delivery to the refugee population requires that UNRWA continues to adapt to changing realities in the region. Priority should be given to the most vulnerable refugees.
Norway appreciates the ongoing reform processes to improve UNRWA's performance and we encourage the organization to continue to carry out this work based on the Medium Term Strategy. We acknowledge however, that it is a challenge for the agency to operate and implement the strategy in an unpredictable and volatile environment with limited resources.
In a situation where the needs in the region are growing, UNRWA has managed to contain costs and present a budget with zero growth for 2016. However, the financial situation of the agency, and the recurrent budget deficits, is still a major concern.
We encourage UNRWA to continue its efforts towards a wider and deeper international response to support its program budget, as well as to secure strong political support for the agency. We commend UNRWA for their work towards forming new and innovative partnerships with multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.
We acknowledge the dedication of UNRWA's staff who are operating in a difficult environment. Norway is highly concerned with the continued loss of life as well as the high number of missing staff since the beginning of the crisis in Syria.
Finally, Norway remains committed in its support to UNRWA, and expresses its deep appreciation and commitment to UNRWA's work across its five fields of operation.
We will continue to be a committed partner and donor to UNRWA in 2016 and beyond.