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UNRWA officials stress that partnerships will not replace the agency

The UNRWA logo on the entrance of its Jordan Field Office. (File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — UNRWA’s Advisory Committee said that partnerships struck with the agency will not replace it, rather they will boost services provided to refugees.اضافة اعلان

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, speaking in Beirut at the Advisory Committee’s meeting, said that the agency is facing the most threatening financial situation in its recent history, stressing that the agency’s capacity and financing tools have been exhausted.

UNRWA suffers from a $100 million financial deficit annually.

UNRWA Director of Strategic Communication Tamara Alrifai told Jordan News that the agency is facing major financial challenges due to the scarcity of resources and to the fact that the world is busy with the Ukrainian crisis, as well as that UNRWA is under a political attack that prejudices the rights of Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA’s priority, she said, is to mobilize sufficient resources to be able to provide basic services, such as education and health, to the Palestinian refugees, as stipulated in the mandate given to the agency by the UN General Assembly.

“We appeal to donor countries to announce additional resources at the donors’ conference to be held on June 23,” she said, adding that the agency also seeks to strengthen partnerships with international organizations (within the UN system) in order to support, develop and continue services and obtain sufficient resources.

She also said that the agency aspires to develop and modernize, to keep up with the world’s transition to digitization, but the lack of resources is an obstacle and has affected the quality of services. For example, she said, there are approximately 50 children in a classroom, and medical visits last for less than three minutes due to the lack of sufficient number of doctors.
partnerships have existed for decades, and we have more than 30 partnerships with organizations
Director General of the Department of Palestinian Affairs Rafiq Khirfan told Jordan News that the partnerships Lazzarini talked about recently will not replace UNRWA, which alone is mandated with providing services to Palestinian refugees, adding that Jordan’s position was made clear by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi, who rejected any change to or derogation from UNRWA’s jurisdiction.

Khirfan added that the recurring financial deficit is a challenge, as is the fierce attack targeting UNRWA under false pretexts, and the increase in demand for services by the growing number of Palestinian refugees.

He stressed that the solution lies in having the UN grant the agency a fixed budget, as is the case with other UN bodies, and urged donor countries to commit to grants, increase their contribution and activate UNRWA’s Department of External and Economic Relations.

While partnerships have existed since the founding of UNRWA, he said, Lazzarini’s recent mention “that there may be another UN agency that provides services” has given rise to concerns and misunderstandings.

UNRWA media advisor Adnan Abu Hasna said “partnerships have existed for decades, and we have more than 30 partnerships with organizations”, but they do not mean that UNRWA’s responsibilities or programs get transferred to other entities.

If there are concerns for the refugees, he said, this is because of the prevailing circumstances, “and UNRWA understands that”, but partnerships will not entail delegating or canceling programs, or handing them over to other bodies, as “this matter needs a resolution from the UN General Assembly”.

He added that there is political support for UNRWA, whose mandate will be renewed in December this year, stressing that while there is “great effort from Jordan and the group of 77 countries, it is not matched by great financial support, so we borrowed $17million from the UN emergency fund to pay salaries. This matter is repeated in December of each year, but that happened on May portends something unusual”.

Abu Hasna said that donors are shifting toward Ukraine, “and some told us that we should not expect them to donate like in previous years; some will postpone payments, which will create a liquidity crisis for us”.

He reiterated that “partnerships are not about transferring responsibilities, but rather to help and try to get out of the crisis”.

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