Statement by Richard Erdman, Senior Advisor, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, on Item 51: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Richard Erdman, Senior Advisor, U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
November 2, 2010


Thank you Mr. Chairman.

The United States appreciates this opportunity to discuss the important work of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and to highlight the Agency’s contribution to the welfare of the Palestinian people. The United States remains concerned about the situation Palestinian refugees face. UNRWA serves a critical role throughout the region by providing humanitarian assistance and basic services to more than 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. Thanks to the support of donors and host governments, UNRWA’s humanitarian programs – including health, education, relief and social services – have improved millions of lives.

The United States is the largest bilateral donor to UNRWA, having contributed more than $237 million in fiscal year 2010. U.S. support to UNRWA in 2010 includes $130 million for the Agency’s core services, $105 million to support emergency relief and reconstruction activities, $10 million to construct five new schools in Gaza, and $20 million to assist the 30,000 people displaced after heavy fighting destroyed the Nahr el Bared camp in northern Lebanon.

The United States also expresses its strong support of UNRWA and the Palestinian people in many ways; our financial contributions to UNRWA represent only one part of our total assistance. The United States has provided more than $1.5 billion since 2008, including $650 million in direct budget support, to help the Palestinian Authority create the institutions and the economy necessary for statehood. That includes building essential infrastructure, rehabilitating schools and health clinics, advancing the rule of law, and supporting private sector development.

Mr. Chairman, the United States remains steadfastly committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. We look forward to the day when Israel and Palestine will live side-by-side in peace and security, and we remain committed to working together with our international partners to achieve this goal. UNRWA helps foster stability and moderation in the region and promotes the human development of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA’s focus on the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality is critically important to fulfilling the Agency’s mandate.

The United States remains concerned about UNRWA’s ability to provide crucial humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees in the face of chronic financial shortfalls. This year, UNRWA struggled to meet its mandate to provide basic services -- and it will continue to struggle without a significant infusion of donor support. Across all five fields of its operations, approximately75 percent of UNRWA school children attended classes in double-shifted schools, sitting three to a desk in classes that meet for half the normal class time. In Gaza an additional 39,000 refugee children are eligible for an UNRWA education that the Agency lacks the facilities to provide. UNRWA doctors see more than 100 patients a day. In 2009, UNRWA medical workers performed more than 11 million consultations in 137 health centers across the five fields.

As these critical needs mount, we urge donor states to continue their robust support of UNRWA. We also urge donors to reach out to non-traditional donors to secure the funding that UNRWA needs to maintain a consistently high level of humanitarian assistance.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2010/265