C4: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

3/25/2011 //

Minister Counsellor Knut Langeland delivered this statement on UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) to the Fourth Committee on 24 March 2011.

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Let me start by thanking the Secretary General for the report before us. The report is a thorough and sobering analysis of the financial status of UNRWA, and it brings clarity to the financial challenges UNRWA is faced with.


Let me also express full support to the draft resolution before us, which Norway has co-sponsored. Norway considers this resolution to be formulated in a way that it should be adopted by consensus. An adoption by consensus would send a clear and unified political message from the UN membership at large. 


Norway would like to make a few remarks regarding the report and its recommendations;


For a decade now, the increasing funding needs of UNRWA have been loyally met by increased contributions from the major donors of the Advisory Commission. Norway has argued that the challenges facing UNRWA are structural and fundamental, and that a long-term sustainable solution requires structural changes to the funding architecture itself.


Such a solution must be sought along three tracks. Firstly; a more balanced burden-sharing among Advisory Commission members. (Let it be noted that several members of the AdCom are out-pledged by donors that are not members. A seat on the AdCom comes with a responsibility to contribute). Secondly; further expansion of the donor base to include new donors. (The Arab states have been at the centre of this approach and we continue to urge them to contribute more), and thirdly; an increase in the contribution coming from the UN’s regular budgets. The latter contributions have been in a steady decline since they were introduced in 1975, from over 8% for the biennium 1975-1976 to a mere 3.5% for this biennium. It is our joint responsibility as members of the UN General Assembly to ensure that UNRWA becomes more properly funded over the UN regular budgets.    



In its recommendations, the report suggests an incremental approach to increasing the funding from the regular budgets over the next 8 years. The principle of increasing funding over the UN regular budgets is important, and one we support fully. UNRWA is mandated by the General Assembly, and should be funded properly by the General Assembly. We do recognize the inherent temporary characteristic of UNRWA’s mandate. But, as we have stated earlier, even if a comprehensive peace agreement was reached tomorrow, UNRWA would still be with us for many years to come.


UNRWA needs stability and predictability around its financial situation, in order to focus on implementing its mandate. Substantially increasing funding over the UN regular budgets is one element of creating that stability and predictability. In this perspective, UNRWA has also been tasked by the General Assembly to implement certain administrative reforms, which have budgetary implications. 


The recommendations in this report clearly state the principle of increasing these contributions, and we look forward to working with all member states to ensure that those increases are properly achieved over the next four biennia. Today’s draft resolution does not mark the end, but the beginning of what would be a thorough discussion on how the financial architecture in a better way needs to reflect the current needs of UNRWA. The Secretary General’s report and today’s resolution mark the beginning of this endeavor.


Thank you.