GA: Informal meeting to hear a briefing on UNRWA

Statement delivered by Permanent Representative Ambassador Merete Fjeld Brattested, Informal meeting of the plenary to hear a briefing on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)


Thank you for convening this meeting.  

The reality in Gaza is getting worse by the day. The civilians in Gaza need many times the amount of humanitarian aid that they are getting. UNRWA is the main lifeline for almost 2 million Palestinians who find themselves in a humanitarian catastrophe. Many depend on the organization for their sheer survival. 

Let me pay tribute to all those who risk their lives in helping others. And my condolences to the families of the 160 UNRWA staff that have lost their lives in doing so.

However, we must not forget that UNRWA also provides basic and necessary services for almost 5,9 million Palestinians in the whole region with the help of 30,000 staff across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.  

We take the allegations of involvement by UNRWA staff in the terror attack on 7 October very seriously. The individuals involved in the attack must be held accountable.   

As other donor countries Norway awaits the results of the investigation into the matter and expect full transparency of the conclusions. We welcome the swift action taken by the United Nations to establish the facts in this serious situation.  

Several donor countries have decided to suspend their funding to UNRWA in the wake of these allegations. Norway has decided to continue its funding. The needs of millions of people cannot be set aside because of the alleged participation of a small number of UNRWA-staff in the 7 October attacks. Norway urges other donors to reflect on the wider consequences of suspending funding to UNRWA in this time of extreme humanitarian distress. 

We welcome the initiatives of other donors to find a way forward and identify some deliverables by UNRWA that can enable funding to be resumed. However, we must keep in mind that UNRWA is in a critical situation, both as regards operational challenges and funding shortage. The organization is providing life-saving aid in Gaza, as well as providing basic services to Palestinians across the region. These functions remain crucial, also from a regional stability perspective. Other UN organisations can only complement the mandated basic services provided by UNRWA. Our asks and demands to UNRWA must be realistic, to give the organization a chance to continue to fulfill its mandate given by us all 75 years ago.  

UNRWA is much more than a humanitarian organisation. It represents a commitment by the international community to meet the basic needs of the Palestine refugees until a political solution to the conflict has been reached. The international community cannot back out of this commitment, at a time when Gaza is essentially in ruins.  

We need more, not less, humanitarian access and aid to war-torn Gaza. We need people on the ground who are able to deliver. Replacing UNRWA’s extensive support infrastructure with alternative channels, as UNRWA’s critics have suggested, is simply not an option.