UNRWA needs $200m over 3 years as it marks 75 years of existence

Philippe Lazzarini
(Photo: UNRWA)
AMMAN —  Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini Monday said that the agency needs between $50 million and $80 million until the end of 2022, stressing that UNRWA cannot fulfill its mandate in the coming years if the current funding system continues, local media outlets reported.اضافة اعلان

Speaking at a press conference, Lazzarini said that “the agency needs $200 million to support digital transformation and replace depleted assets”, and called on UN member states to lend assistance for the agency to achieve sustainability.

Poverty rates among Palestinian refugees reached unprecedented levels, having grown by about 90 percent in Syria, Lebanon and, Gaza.

“In Lebanon, the situation of the Palestinian refugees has reached the bottom; most of them live below the poverty line, and their lives lack dignity... there is a complete dependence in these societies on UNRWA,” said Lazzarini.

“The Amman meeting is an opportunity for a review of ties between the agency and the community of hosts and donors, and to discuss efforts to support UNRWA and arrive at a stable financial environment,” he added.

“There is an increase in the needs of the refugee community”, and “UNRWA is required to satisfy these growing needs through its own resources,” said Lazzarini, who pointed out that “40 percent of children in Gaza do not get breakfast”.

Lazzarini stressed that “in the absence of a just solution to the Palestinian issue, UNRWA will remain indispensable and irreplaceable”.

The head of the UNRWA Advisory Committee, Basel Al-Hassan, expressed hope that the international community will contribute regularly to support the Palestinian refugees, adding that the recent meetings are important because they “are an arena for discussion of all issues related to UNRWA”, and because they create a space for the agency, host countries, and donors to communicate.

During a meeting of the agency’s Advisory Commission in Amman on Monday, Lazzarini said he expects strong support from UN members, in the absence of a just and lasting solution to the Palestinians, whose plight has lasted for decades.
These will be 75 years of what was supposed to be a temporary UN agency, and 75 years of failure to find a political solution.
That support stems from the deep belief by most UN member states that UNRWA is irreplaceable for the wellbeing and the fulfillment of human rights of Palestinian refugees, he said. He added that most members now realize that the UNRWA financial model, relying almost exclusively on voluntary and unpredictable funding, has become inadequate to run government-like services.

“Education, health and social protection services require stable, predictable annual budgets that take into account the changing environment, including conflicts, crises, rising costs and inflation globally,” he said.

“At the Brussels conference co-hosted by Jordan and Sweden last November, I sought to promote a mutual commitment, between the agency and donors, a strategy for a modernized agency that operates with a three-year budget in exchange for increased pluri-annual funding,” he added.

Lazzarini said that over the past 18 months, the agency suggested to the member states at least three different avenues to bring stable funding to UNRWA.

“After a record low level of Arab contributions in 2021, I welcome the Saudi contribution of $27 million last month. It is now my hope that we will resume our solid and predictable partnerships with all Gulf countries, including by reaching again the level of funding that UNRWA received from the Arab countries between 2015 and 2018,” he added.

By the end of this year, Lazzarini said, UNRWA will release its strategic plan covering the years 2023-2028.

Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option for the agency; “failing to provide the agency with a sustainable funding base cannot be an option”, Lazzarini said.

He appealed to members of the UNRWA Advisory Commission to work with him on three tracks.

First and most urgent in the coming weeks, UNRWA needs between $50 and $80 million to be able to end the year and keep the schools and health centers and other basic services running. Failure to gather that amount poses the risk of strikes, and consequently, suspension of services.

Second, the agency requires a capital injection of close to $200 million over three years to reach the objectives of its strategic plan.

“This is needed to restore assets depleted by years of austerity, to support our digital transformation, and to live up to our environmental sustainability commitments,” he said.

Third, Lazzarini said, “it is urgent that we agree on ways to endow the agency with a sustainable funding base.

Under the new mandate cycle, UNRWA will turn 75.

“These will be 75 years of what was supposed to be a temporary UN agency, and 75 years of failure to find a political solution,” he concluded.

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