Statement by H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog at the UNRWA Pledging Conference
Statement by H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN, at the UNRWA Pledging Conference, Monday 25th of June, 2018, New York.
Thank you very much Mr President and thank you very much Commissioner-General.
Today, we are gathered here, once again, to address the critical shortfall in funding faced by UNRWA. On this occasion, the level of need is unprecedented and represents the most challenging financial situation for the Agency since its establishment by the General Assembly in 1949. Now, the time has come to secure, once and for all, long-term and predictable financing for UNRWA. This is why Sweden, together with Jordan and Egypt, hosted the Extraordinary Ministerial Conference in Rome on 15 March. We are grateful to those who joined and committed support on that occasion.
UNRWA is not to blame for its budget shortfall. The underlying factors that affect it have become increasingly politicised and are outside of the Agency's control. The deteriorating situation on the ground both with regard to the conflict in Syria and the recent escalation of violence in and around Gaza have made UNRWA's work all the more essential, but also more challenging and costly. These events are not only a constant reminder of how close we are to the brink of war, but of the indispensable role UNRWA plays in the region.
Since the protests began on 30 March, UNRWA's health facilities and personnel in Gaza have treated around 1,900 people with demonstration-related injuries. Distressingly, due to the centres' overstretched capacity, many patients that require hospitalisation have been prematurely discharged or not admitted at all.
This is the human cost of the reality that, while humanitarian needs have increased at an alarming rate, contributions to UNRWA in no way match this trend. The international community must shoulder its common responsibility to secure the financial survival and achieve long term sustainable and predictable financial situation for UNRWA. To this end, and in in line with our Grand Bargain commitments, Sweden is aiming for entering into a multiyear agreement with UNRWA by August this year committing to approximately a quarter of a billion USD over four years – a quarter of a billion USD over four years. This is in addition to our share of the EU funding.
UNRWA's work is a lifeline to millions of Palestinian refugees, whose dire situation is exacerbated by continued occupation and the lack of prospects for peace. The wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be addressed with urgency. This includes ending the occupation, resolving all final status issues and realising the two-state solution.
However, until this is realised, more than half a million children depend on UNRWA for their basic education. The Agency ensures the access to health care for 3.4 million people and stands in the forefront of maintaining international humanitarian law and dignity for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. UNRWA represents a critical factor for stability in the region; contributing to the prevention of violent extremism. If UNRWA will be unable to open schools in Gaza in August, we must ask ourselves, who will?
Throughout the year, UNRWA has undertaken reforms and challenging transformations in order to enhance its efficiency and reduce its costs. Whilst more work is needed, we commend your efforts, Commissioner-General, and you can count on our continued full support for this work.
Finally, to those who maintain that financing UNRWA is too costly, I would ask them to consider the price of doing nothing. We believe we would pay dearly – in human lives lost, in human potential squandered and in increased instability in a region already perilously close to the brink of war. As one of the principal donors to UNRWA, Sweden will not walk away. We will continue to shoulder our responsibility and we encourage all to join in this collective effort.
I thank you very much.