For 60 years UNRWA has provided the Palestinian refugee population with immediate relief, basic services and the possibility of a life in dignity. We commend the Agency and its staff for their untiring efforts in assisting Palestinian refugees under difficult and often dangerous circumstances. UNRWA has a regional mandate, provided by the General Assembly, and its efforts in each of the host countries merit particular recognition.
While the situation for Palestinian refugees is difficult throughout the region, it is particularly acute for the refugees in the Gaza Strip and among those displaced from the Nahr al-Bared Camp in Northern Lebanon. As so many times before, UNRWA has to provide the safety net.
We urge all donors, including regional countries, to contribute to UNRWA’s activities, both to the emergency appeals as well as to the agency’s general activities.
Thousands of displaced refugees from the Nahr al-Bared Camp face a harsh winter. The massive destruction of livelihoods, education and health facilities has to be addressed. Norway is responding to the crisis by providing 2 mill. USD this year for the reconstruction of the camp and for humanitarian assistance.
Three years after Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, we are faced with a worrying social and economic situation. Most of Gaza’s population is dependent on food aid from UNRWA or from the World Food Programme. The cost of providing food aid is rising steadily because of Israeli import restrictions. These costs are borne by UNRWA and thus by the donor countries.
We have seen some slight improvements when it comes to the import of goods to the Gaza Strip this last summer because of the calm in and around the Gaza strip. However, the amount of commercial and humanitarian goods allowed into the Gaza Strip is still not sufficient to meet either humanitarian needs or basic requirements for a viable private sector. We call upon Israel to ease its restrictions on the movement of goods and people, and to refrain from administering punitive measures on an entire population in the Gaza Strip.
Norway will continue to be a strong supporter of UNRWA. In our role as Chair of the Advisory Commission we will maintain focus on UNRWA’s critical financial situation and the need for increased support. We will continue our efforts to keep the plight of Palestinian refugees on the international agenda. We hope that the proposed Ministerial-level meeting to mark UNRWA’s 60th anniversary will raise international awareness of the situation for Palestinian refugees and of the indispensable work of the Agency.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.