Statement on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, in the Fourth Committee

Laura G. Ross
Senior Advisor 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 3, 2009


Thank you Mr. Chairman. The United States appreciates the opportunity to discuss the important work of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.  The United States remains concerned about the situation facing Palestinian refugees.  UNRWA serves a critical role throughout the region in providing over 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank, and Gaza with humanitarian assistance.  With the support of donors and host governments, UNRWA’s humanitarian programs – including education, health, relief and social services – have improved the lives of generations.   

The United States is the largest donor to UNRWA with over $267 million contributed in fiscal year 2009.  United States Government support to UNRWA in 2009 includes $116 million to the Agency’s core services, $119.5 million to support emergency activities in West Bank and Gaza, and $30 million toward emergency relief and reconstruction efforts to assist the 30,000 people displaced after heavy fighting destroyed Nahr el Bared camp in Northern Lebanon.

United States financial support to UNRWA is but one manifestation of our commitment to helping the Palestinian people.  The United States also provides direct assistance to Palestinians outside the framework of our support to UNRWA.  In fiscal year 2009, the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, provided $426 million in assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza for basic humanitarian needs, private sector development, health and education programs, and democracy and civil society promotion.  The United States Government also provided $350 million in direct budget assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

The United States remains steadfast in its commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and we look forward to the day when the states of Israel and Palestine will live side-by-side in peace and security.  As we continue to work together to achieve this goal, let me reiterate UNRWA’s important role in encouraging stability and moderation in the region, and in promoting the human development of Palestinian refugees who will ultimately help forge a successful Palestinian state.  UNRWA’s focus on the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality in a highly charged working environment is critical for the Agency to fulfill its mandate.     

The United States remains concerned that chronic financial shortfalls undermine UNRWA’s ability to provide needed humanitarian assistance.  UNRWA will be unable to provide basic humanitarian services without a significant infusion of donor support.  Children often sit three to a desk in classes that meet for half the normal class time to accommodate a second shift of school.  Patients often receive basic health care in dilapidated structures where doctors see over 100 patients per day due to inadequate financial support. 
In light of these critical needs, I ask donor states to redouble efforts to secure the funding UNRWA needs to maintain a consistently high level of humanitarian assistance for its beneficiaries.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2009/273