I would like at the outset to align the United Arab Emirates statement with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, and the statement of the Arab League on the “United Nations Agency for Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).” I am also pleased to express our sincere appreciation to the Commissioner-General of the UNRWA, and to the UNRWA’s staff, for their tireless efforts in improving the situation of the Palestinian refugees, and providing them with necessary services including education, health, and infrastructure.
UNRWA plays an important role in providing vital services to more than five million Palestinian refugees, especially in light of the waves of violence and conflicts our region is currently witnessing, which further exacerbate the refugee crisis. As relayed by the Commissioner-General in his report, there is a state of despair, fear and insecurity among Palestinian refugees, which prompted many of them to flee across dangerous paths within and outside the region. Moreover, the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, forced displacement of the population, and the increase in home demolitions have led to the deterioration of the living standards for Palestinians, and an increase in demand for UNRWA’s services.
Therefore, we must continue to provide assistance to the Agency and broaden the donor base to enable it to respond to the needs of refugees in Palestine and other countries, as quickly and effectively as possible. In this context, the UAE continues to support UNRWA through an annual voluntary contribution of $1.8 million to the operational budget of the Agency's programs.
Moreover, and during the Agency's most serious financial crisis in its history in 2015, which threatened to delay the start of the school year in more than 600 schools, the UAE responded to the emergency by providing $15 Million. In addition, the UAE has pledged nearly $5 million in 2015 to support educational programs for refugee students, provide school kits, and more importantly, mitigate the psychological effects of armed conflict on the refugee student population. The designated amount also included food assistance to the Palestinian refugees affected by the conflict in Syria, where hundreds of thousands were displaced, and thousands remain in the camps under the threat of violence and conflict.
The UAE also contributes to the development of the Agency's activities through its membership in UNRWA’s Advisory Commission since 2014, in addition to its accession to the Steering Committee for the Resource Mobilization Strategy in 2015, which aims to maintain the financial stability of the Agency to enable it to provide its services
Due to the importance of education, which represents a vital source of hope for more than half a million refugee students in Palestine and neighboring countries, the UAE is keen on supporting educational projects through a contribution of $15 million for the period of 2016 and 2017.
Even though these contributions support the response to the needs of the refugee population, we believe that their suffering will only come to an end when a permanent and fundamental settlement of the refugee issue is reached, as an integral part of the settlement of the Palestinian issue. It is incumbent upon the international community to double its efforts towards ending Israel’s violations, end the illegal occupation of Arab territories, and implement relevant international resolutions, especially General Assembly Resolution 194.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, the UAE would like to again commend the role of UNRWA in assisting refugees, and guarding the future of the youth in valuable settings, who are being recruited and exploited by terrorist and extremist groups. The UAE also pays tribute to the efforts and sacrifices made by the agency’s staff as they carry out their mission and assist refugees.