BRUSSELS, July 2, 2015 (WAFA) – UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said, in a statement published Thursday, that the international organization has seen an unprecedented level of financial shortage, which could have drastic consequences on its capacity to fulfil its mandate.
The statement came as Krähenbühl visited Brussels for a range of senior-level meetings to draw attention to the Agency’s crucial role and activities and to raise the alarm regarding its dramatic level of underfunding, as well as to officially open the UNRWA photography exhibition ‘I Am Not a Statistic’, held in the European Parliament until 3 July.
“This level of underfunding is unprecedented and will have very direct and dire consequences on the Agency’s capacity to fulfil its mandate, as well as our ability to preserve past human development achievements,” said Krähenbühl as he spoke of a recent World Bank Group report that praised the Agency’s educational system and highlighted Palestine refugee students’ above-average results.
The Commissioner-General also reminded the EU that UNRWA emergency appeals for both Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory are also severely underfunded (funded at 27% and 30% respectively), undermining the Agency’s capacity to provide life-savings services.
“The situation in the Middle East – with rising instability and an increased risk of radicalization – is one in which Palestine refugees face what are in many ways existential threats,” he continued.
“Overlooking their vulnerability and needs is a risk the world cannot take, a luxury we do not have. We must act now by supporting the dignity and rights of Palestine refugees and helping to achieve a political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Krähenbühl briefed the audience on the Agency’s many important achievements and alarming financial situation.
He forecasted a deficit of EUR 93 million (US$ 101 million) for the UNRWA General Fund, saying the Agency has implemented a set of stringent measures to minimize costs while maintaining core service delivery to refugees.
“However, some difficult decisions regarding the UNRWA school system, which serves half a million children across the Middle East in Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria, may be needed in the coming weeks if the deficit is not filled,” Krähenbühl stressed.
President EU Parliament Martin Schulz, who inaugurated the event, praised UNRWA as a “strategic partner” of the EU, adding the EU was proud to be the largest multilateral donor of the Agency.
“Indeed, the Agency plays a vital role for the security, stability and human development of the region. As wars continue to devastate the Middle East, the EU must stand by UNRWA to help it carry its indispensable mission,” he continued.
“Refugees are not statistics – they are people who want to contribute to our common humanity with their dreams, their energy and their talent.”
Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn also shared his analysis and vision of the current state of affairs. “The situation of Palestine refugees in Gaza, in Syria and in other camps is constantly deteriorating, and the danger is that we become accustomed to this dramatic situation,” he said.
“Today’s exhibition reminds us that we should take the time to discover the human faces behind the statistics,” he said.