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UK Support to UNRWA

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2018

The UK remains firmly committed to supporting Palestinian refugees across the near east. The UK recognises the UN Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) important mandate from the UN General Assembly to support and protect Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA is a necessary humanitarian and stabilising force across the near east, providing millions of Palestinian refugees with hope and opportunities every day. Its basic services, including food, education and healthcare, provide a life-line to the 5 million and more Palestinian men, women and child refugees across the region, and enable them to live in dignity until a negotiated peace agreement.

The UK is concerned about the possibility of service suspension as a result of the exceptional funding deficit that UNRWA is facing this year. The Syrian conflict has caused more than 50,000 Palestinian refugees to be on the move again, and increasing numbers of refugees are food insecure and vulnerable to shocks. Recent violence in Gaza has added to the burden on UNRWA’s health services. UNRWA’s work has never been more critical.

In the face of these pressures, the UK has committed to deliver its next round of financial support earlier than originally planned to help meet the growing needs of Palestinian refugees across the region. We will disburse £38.5 million to the agency in recognition of the severity of the deficit and the importance of service delivery. This includes £28.5 million that I committed at the UNRWA Rome pledging conference earlier this year, and £10 million of funding that the UK is bringing forward from next year’s budget in response to the exceptional cash flow challenges UNRWA is facing.

The UK will continue to work closely with UNRWA to reach a secure and sustainable financial footing. We have welcomed UNRWA’s efforts to become ever more efficient and cost-effective, and are committed to working closely with them, host authorities, and fellow donors to maintain a realistic and achievable pace of reform.

We communicated the UK’s ongoing support to the UN Secretary-General at an UNRWA pledging conference in New York on 25 June. We were pleased that 20 donors announced contributions, or their intention to contribute, to the 2018 budget of UNRWA. I will continue to urge the international community to come together to ensure that UNRWA can maintain its essential work and find ways to ensure continuity of essential services to Palestinian refugees.

All of us who care about stability in the region and about the rights and needs of this vulnerable group of people need to do our part to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees. The UK has welcomed UNRWA’s efforts to broaden its donor base and encouraged partners to step up with more funding and more predictable disbursements. The UK has highlighted our concern about the impact on the activities of UNRWA that any unexpected reductions or delays in predicted donor disbursements might have. While we acknowledge the greater burden shouldered by some, we urge all donors to honour their commitments.

While the support and services provided by UNRWA are essential, ultimately there needs to be a just, fair, agreed, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee question as part of a negotiated peace agreement. The UK is firmly committed to a two-state solution to provide the long-term answer for Palestinian refugees.

Peace will come only through fresh negotiations between the parties, supported by the international community. It is critical that both Israelis and Palestinians return to direct negotiations and urgently prioritise steps to resolve the situation in Gaza. The UK remains firmly committed to this process.