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C4: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Statement by Ambassador Odd-Inge Kvalheim on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in the Fourth Committee, 11 November 2019.

Thank you Chair,

UNRWA plays a key role as an employer, as a vehicle for economic activity and as a regional stabilizer. UNRWA’s continued ability to deliver basic services to over 5 million Palestine refugees remains critical. To the Palestine refugees and to ensure regional stability. There is no alternative to UNRWA in terms of providing essential services to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees.

 

Chair,

The financial situation of UNRWA remains a cause of great concern. We increased the Norwegian contribution last year as well as this year to ensure the agency’s continued ability to deliver according to its mandate. We have contributed 27 mill. USD this year. We welcome the increased contributions by existing and new donors, which closed the budget shortfall in 2018. The extent of countries who stepped up to meet the urgent needs demonstrates the strong international commitment to the Palestine refugees, and to ensuring the operational ability of UNRWA.

UNRWA has taken painful but necessary steps to achieve greater cost efficiency and reform of the organisation. The emphasis on cost efficiency remains key, against the backdrop of continuous budgetary shortfalls.

 

Chair,

The two past years have been years of crisis for UNRWA. First, the unprecedented financial crisis last year. Then, the management crisis this year, combined with continuous budget shortfalls.

It is regrettable that the agency has suffered a management crisis in addition to its financial crisis. We expect the findings of the OIOS reports to be followed up in an expeditious and thorough manner, and look forward to staying informed about the relevant steps that will be taken.

Against this backdrop it’s important to maintain focus on the Palestine refugees and their needs and rights that are served by the agency. We must maintain our focus on the key role played by UNRWA, which goes beyond any immediate management concerns. An extension of UNRWA’s mandate is key to ensure the continuous delivery of essential services and employment to the Palestine refugees. Norway will support the extension of UNRWA’s mandate for another three year period during the consideration and adoption of the relevant resolutions this month.

 

Chair,

Finally, let me assure you that Norway remains a consistent partner to UNRWA, both in terms of political and financial support. Let me finish by paying tribute to the highly dedicated UNRWA staff.

 

Thank you.